Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford warned Monday that the UAW strike campaign against Ford and other Detroit Three automakers is hurting them against non-union rivals, including Toyota, Honda, Tesla and emerging Chinese automakers.
“I’ve also been a pro-union leader in our industry,” Ford said at a news conference at the Rouge plant in Dearborn. “On my watch, Ford is the only automaker to add UAW jobs in the last 15 years. … Ford is the strongest ally the UAW has ever known. These are the choices we made. And this is an added cost to our business. An industry that is extraordinarily competitive. … Every negotiation is challenging. But at the end of the day, we’ve always realized that we’re all Ford, and we win or lose together.”
Ford, the former CEO and great-grandson of the company’s founder, urged the UAW to call off a strike against Ford and its Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne, Illinois at its Chicago Assembly plant and Kentucky Truck plant in Louisville, which has resulted in about 19,000 workers walking off the job — strike or strike. Due to layoffs from Ford facilities.
He said he has not spoken publicly about the negotiations till date.
“We can stop this now,” Bill Ford said. “We must come together to end these tough talks. I still believe in a brighter future that we can build together. I still believe that the automobile industry is a major force for good in our country.”
He noted Ford’s history of helping the war effort by building boats, tank parts and engines, and developing COVID-19 personal protective equipment for frontline health workers and others during the deadly pandemic. A good manufacturing base is critical to our national security, he said.
Making things in America is more important now than ever, especially in these uncertain times, Ford said.
“After 120 years, Ford is still a family company,” said Ford. “It’s very personal to me. When the TV cameras go off, I’ll still be there. I’m only the fourth member of my family to lead this company. I always take the vision. I work for a company that has a bright future, not just for my kids and grandkids, but for Ford.” And for hundreds of thousands.
The fight shouldn’t be between Ford and the UAW, Bill Ford said.
“Today, as the UAW strike against Ford continues, we are at a crossroads. Choosing the right path is not only about Ford’s future and our ability to compete. It is about the future of the American automobile industry. UAW leaders have called. We are adversaries in this negotiation, but I consider our employees as adversaries. I won’t.
Competitors including Toyota, Honda and Tesla “love this strike,” Ford said. “They win, we all lose.”
Ford made it clear that the industry was at a critical juncture.
“That’s why Ford’s investment in the future is not just talk, it’s the absolute lifeblood of our company. If we lose it, we lose the competition. America loses. Many jobs are lost. And so the future is an investment. … Communities will suffer greatly.”
Ford is the industry’s longest-serving auto leader and has been part of every UAW negotiation since 1982, he said.
He did not discuss the pending contract proposal with the UAW in detail, saying it was a record deal with unprecedented wages and benefits.
The UAW did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Ford’s comments at the Rouge Visitor Center on Miller Avenue in Dearborn.
On September 29, Ford CEO Jim Farley said he was holding the UAW board hostage in negotiations over battery plants under construction. Last Thursday, Ford Blue president Kumar Kalhotra said Ford had reached its limit financially on proposals for a new labor contract with the union.
UAW President Shawn Fine says Ford hasn’t moved far enough in its negotiations.
In recent months, the company has emphasized its commitment to the UAW and cooperation, which has changed from a one-time history of violence between Ford and UAW members.
Meanwhile, in Canada, Ford workers and General Motors workers have ratified their labor contracts over the past three weeks during traditional bargaining. Stellandis is next.
This is the first time the UAW has launched a targeted strike against all three automakers at the same time. The nationwide strike began on September 15 with plants at all three automakers, followed by GM and Stellantis parts warehouses. Just last week, the UAW ordered its members out of Ford’s critical Kentucky truck plant.
Further: UAW strike reaches 1 month as some workers grow impatient: Where things stand