United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain is expected to deliver a video address on Friday, which could potentially lead to an escalation of the union’s strikes against the Detroit Three automakers or result in concessions to union demands. Fain’s address will take place on Facebook Live at 10 a.m. ET (1400 GMT), following his surprise decision to strike Ford Motor’s Kentucky truck plant on Wednesday, the company’s largest and most profitable operation worldwide.
Ford has warned that as early as Friday, they may be forced to furlough up to 4,600 workers. The situation at the Louisville assembly plant, which manufactures compact Escape SUVs, is precarious because it relies on parts from the Kentucky Truck plant.
In the past, Fain has used his Friday addresses to either order additional walkouts or report progress in negotiations. It remains uncertain whether he will decide to expand the strikes to include Chrysler parent Stellantis, General Motors, or Ford.
Last Friday, Fain mentioned the possibility of striking the GM assembly plant in Arlington, Texas, which produces Cadillac Escalade, Chevy Suburban, and other large, high-priced SUVs if necessary. GM’s Flint, Michigan, heavy-duty truck assembly plant is another potential target for a strike.
However, Fain has previously called off planned walkouts at the last minute when automakers made concessions just before his scheduled address.
The UAW has been engaged in intensive negotiations this week with Stellantis and is discussing with GM the terms of a deal that would encompass battery plant workers under a master labor agreement.
A senior Ford executive mentioned that the automaker has reached the limit of what it can afford in terms of higher wages and benefits for the UAW, with their latest offer including a 23% wage hike through early 2028.
“We have been very clear that we are at the limit,” Kumar Galhotra, head of Ford’s combustion vehicle unit. “We stretched to get to this point. Going further will hurt our ability to invest in the business.”
Todd Dunn, president of the UAW local that represents the 8,700 workers at Ford’s Kentucky truck plant as well as those at the nearby Louisville assembly plant, said the truck plant walkout was necessary because Ford “took advantage of the fact they had a reprieve” for the past two weeks and stopped making progress on key bargaining issues.
“They’re doing that on the backs of men and women who’ve been out for four weeks” at Ford’s Michigan assembly plant, the Ford Bronco factory that was among the first operations to go on strike last month, he said.
Dunn said his local union members want to see improved retirement benefits and assurances that workers will have jobs as the company shifts its product lineup to electric vehicles.
Ford is working with the UAW on a way to bring workers at joint venture EV battery plants into the UAW-Ford agreement, Galhotra said.