Bill Ford, the Executive Chairman of Ford, issued a rare plea on Monday, expressing concerns over the ongoing United Auto Workers (UAW) strike and its impact on the future of both the company and the American automotive industry. Ford, who has been involved in UAW negotiations since 1982, appealed to union members and leaders to collaborate with the company in order to reach a tentative agreement and put an end to this contentious round of talks.
In a press conference at Ford’s Rouge Complex in metro Detroit, Bill Ford emphasized the critical crossroads they were facing and the importance of choosing a path that ensures Ford’s future and its competitiveness. He urged that this is not just about Ford but about the future of the American automobile industry as a whole.
Ford’s remarks represented an unusual departure from the typical tone of contract negotiations with the UAW. He stressed the need to elevate the conversation and refrain from personal attacks, emphasizing that Ford employees should not be considered enemies. Instead, he encouraged collaboration between Ford and the UAW to compete against other global automotive players.
The UAW had previously referred to the company as the “enemy” during negotiations, which Ford sought to address. He highlighted the importance of collective efforts, stating that it should be Ford and the UAW against competitors like Toyota, Honda, Tesla, and Chinese companies seeking to enter the American market.
As of now, there has been no immediate response from the UAW regarding Ford’s comments.
Ford’s plea follows a week of tense negotiations between the company and the UAW, which included an unexpected strike at Ford’s Kentucky Truck plant. Over 19,000 of Ford’s 57,000 UAW members are currently affected by the strike, with more than 16,600 workers actively on strike and approximately 2,480 employees laid off due to the work stoppage.
Ford had previously stated that they were at the limit of what they could offer to the UAW in terms of economic concessions. Their proposal included wage increases, retention of health care benefits, ratification bonuses, cost-of-living reinstatement, and more.
At present, only around 23% of UAW members under expired contracts with Detroit automakers are on strike. The UAW had transitioned to targeted strikes after failing to reach tentative agreements by September 14, moving away from the practice of pre-announcing work stoppages.