Ford workers praise new UAW contract: ‘This will change so many lives’

Ford workers are giving positive feedback on the new contract their union negotiated with the automaker, with some calling the 25 percent raise and other details “historic.”

The initial response could bode well for the worker ratification vote needed to finalize the tentative agreement announced Wednesday night. Ford workers have suspended their strike and will return to their jobs as they prepare for a vote that could take a week or more to organize.

Meanwhile, the United Auto Workers union continues to push for similar deals with General Motors and Jeep maker Stellantis, where strikes continue. The gap the companies need to close to match the Ford deal isn’t enormous — both automakers recently offered 23 percent raises. Talks were set Thursday between UAW President Shawn Fain and Stellantis.

Steven Summers, 60, a quality-control worker at Ford who had been on strike for six weeks at a Wayne, Mich., factory that makes Broncos, said Thursday morning he was “ecstatic about the deal.”

UAW and Ford reach tentative deal to end strike

The 24-year Ford veteran said he walked off the job for the first time in his career because his younger co-workers were stuck on a worse pay scale than veteran employees.

To him, the most important gains in the new contract are provisions that will provide more job security to new hires and a concession giving workers the right to strike over plant closures during the next contract. He plans to return to work Monday.

Ford officials said the company needs time to get the giant plants — in Chicago, Louisville and Wayne — running again. Chief Financial Officer John Lawler said Thursday the strike has cost Ford $1.3 billion through lost sales and other disruptions.

Petrun Williams, 58, a repairman at the Wayne plant, said he had been getting nervous that the strike was dragging on too long. He said he was “overall satisfied with everything in the deal” and thought it meant that Ford employees “can really live as middle-class now.”

“This deal is stronger, better than previous deals,” said Williams, who will make $40 an hour by 2028 under the new deal. “I’m getting all set for my retirement. What a great day to be a Ford employee.”

Some workers praised the union for landing the deal. “This contract will change so many lives, for the better, and is a historic agreement that makes me proud to be a member of the great UAW!” Jeremy Rickert, a veteran worker at a Ford axle plant in the Detroit area, said by text message.

He said he wants to see the full details of the offer but is leaning toward endorsing it. The union is planning to publish the deal Sunday evening and hold a webcast then to lay everything out.

Vicky Gossett, who has been on strike at a giant Ford factory in Chicago, said that she thinks workers will ratify the deal but that they still need to see the fine print.

“I feel we stood our ground for what needs to be done for the working-class people,” she said.

The UAW has been conducting the strike in a targeted fashion, walking out of some factories but ordering members to keep working at others. It has widened the strike over time to hit bigger and more profitable factories as a way to pressure the companies to negotiate.

Still, the strike has rippled out to affect many workers far beyond the picket lines. The Big Three automakers have temporarily laid off thousands of nonstriking workers in recent weeks, saying that they can’t carry out their work because they depend on striking facilities. Auto-parts suppliers have also laid off thousands as their orders from the Big Three dried up.

Some suppliers will have to hire new workers to replace employees who left for other jobs during the UAW strike, Ford’s Lawler said Thursday, as the company reported quarterly earnings.

He and other Ford officials have welcomed the tentative agreement but disclosed little about the details, saying it is up to the UAW to share those first with its members.

Lawler said the deal will raise Ford’s labor costs by $850 to $900 per vehicle produced. Ford will still remain profitable, he added.

“There is no doubt about that,” Lawler said. “Yes, this is an increase in cost for us. … When you are in a period of inflation you have to pay your people because it puts a hardship on them. And then you as a company have to find a way to increase your efficiency and productivity.”

Mike Kanowski, 67, works at a Ford stamping facility in Wayne that laid off some nonstriking workers six weeks ago. He said his co-workers who were temporarily laid off had been anxious for the UAW to hurry up and get a deal.

“Our guys who had been out for six weeks were getting antsy,” said Kanowski, whose half of the facility was not laid off. “But we finally got a deal, so everyone is happy.”

Kanowski said he cannot have a fully formed opinion on whether it’s a good deal until next week, when UAW leadership shares the details of the agreement in meetings with the membership. “All we know right now is bit and pieces,” Kanowski said. “The highlights look good, but I’m waiting until we see everything.”

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1: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2023/10/26/ford-uaw-contract-strike/

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