Auto workers escalate strike as 8,700 workers walk out at Ford Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville

File - United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain talks with members picketing near a General Motors Assembly Plant in Delta Township, Mich., Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. Fain will update members on bargaining with Detroit's three automakers on Friday afternoon, (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

DETROIT — The United Auto Workers union significantly escalated its strikes against Detroit’s Three automakers Wednesday when 8,700 workers walked off their jobs at Ford’s Kentucky truck plant.

The surprise move about 6:30 p.m. took down the largest and most profitable Ford plant in the world. The sprawling factory makes pricey heavy-duty F-Series pickup trucks and large Ford and Lincoln SUVs.


UAW President Shawn Fain said in a statement that the union has waited long enough “but Ford hasn’t gotten the message” to bargain for a fair contract.

“If they can’t understand that after four weeks, the 8,700 workers shutting down this extremely profitable plant will help them understand it,” Fain said.

The strike came nearly four weeks after the union began its walkouts against General Motors, Ford and Jeep maker Stellantis on Sept. 15, with one assembly plant from each company.

In a statement, Ford called the strike expansion “grossly irresponsible” but said it wasn’t surprising given the UAW leadership’s statements that it wanted to keep Detroit automakers hobbled with “industrial chaos.”

A Ford executive said the union set up a meeting at the company’s Dearborn, Michigan, headquarters Wednesday afternoon where Fain asked if the company had another offer.

High-ranking Ford executives responded that they are working on possibly bringing electric vehicle battery plants into the UAW national contract, essentially making them unionized. But they didn’t have a significantly different economic offer, the executive said. Fain was told the company put a strong offer on the table, but there wasn’t a lot of room to increase it and keep it affordable for the business, the executive said.

Fain responded by saying, if that’s the company’s best offer, “You just lost the Kentucky Truck Plant,” said the executive.

The UAW expanded its strikes on Sept. 22, adding 38 GM and Stellantis parts warehouses. Assembly plants from Ford and GM were added the week after that. All told, about 25,000 workers have walked off their jobs at the three automakers.

Thus far, the union has decided to target a small number of plants from each company rather than have all 146,000 UAW members at the automakers go on strike at the same time.

Last week, the union reported progress in the talks and decided not to add any more plants. This came after GM agreed to bring joint-venture electric vehicle battery factories into the national master contract, almost assuring that the plants will be unionized.

Battery plants are a major point of contention in the negotiations. The UAW wants those plants to be unionized to assure jobs and top wages for workers who will be displaced by the industry’s ongoing transition to electric vehicles.

Since the start of the strike, the three Detroit automakers have laid off roughly 4,800 workers at factories that are not among the plants that have been hit by the UAW strikes.

The companies say the strikes have forced them to impose those layoffs. They note that the job cuts have occurred mainly at factories that make parts for assembly plants that were closed by strikes. In one case, layoffs have been imposed at a factory that uses supplies from a parts factory on strike.

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