UAW and Ford reach tentative deal to end strike

The United Auto Workers and Ford said they reached a tentative contract agreement that will end the union’s strike against the automaker if ratified by workers, in a crucial step toward resolving a nationwide work stoppage that continues against two other Detroit automakers.

If approved by a majority of Ford’s UAW workers, the deal will end a six-week strike that has halted work at Ford factories in Chicago, Louisville and Wayne, Mich. The preliminary deal increases pressure on General Motors and Stellantis to reach agreements with similar terms.

The Ford deal includes the biggest contract wins the UAW has secured in years, including a 25 percent hike in base wages through April 2028, the union said.

The agreement provides cost-of-living adjustments to wages that will help raise the top hourly wage by over 30 percent to more than $40 by the end of the contract, union officials said. The starting hourly wage will grow to more than $28.

UAW expands strike to GM plant in Texas as firm says walkout costs it $200 million a week

The deal also shortens the time it takes new workers to reach the top wage, and eliminates wage tiers that left newer workers on a lower pay scale, the UAW said. It also boosts Ford’s contribution to retirement accounts.

In a major concession, Ford has also agreed to allow workers to strike over any plant closures during the next contract, an issue that weighs heavily on autoworkers who worry about factories shutting down during the transition to electric vehicles, which are less labor intensive.

“We won things nobody thought possible,” UAW President Shawn Fain said after Wednesday’s announcement. “Since the strike began, Ford put 50 percent more on the table than when we walked out. This agreement sets us on a new path to make things right at Ford, at the Big Three and across the auto industry.”

Ford chief executive Jim Farley said the company was pleased to reach the agreement and is “proud to assemble the most vehicles in America and employ the most hourly autoworkers.” He said it would be up to the UAW to communicate details of the offer to its members.

Both Ford and the UAW said workers will return to their jobs while they consider the tentative agreement.

“We are focused on restarting Kentucky Truck Plant, Michigan Assembly Plant and Chicago Assembly Plant, calling 20,000 Ford employees back to work and shipping our full lineup to our customers again,” Farley said.

The UAW strike is the union’s first against all of Detroit’s Big Three automakers at the same time. It is the first national strike that Ford has faced since 1979.

The fallout for the automakers has been swift, with General Motors this week saying the strike was costing it $200 million a week — and that was before the UAW walked out of an additional GM plant in Arlington, Tex.

The contract negotiations have been highly acrimonious, with Fain frequently lashing out against “corporate greed” and lucrative executive compensation. The automakers have at times accused Fain of grandstanding for the cameras instead of engaging in real negotiations — and they have warned that significantly increasing their labor costs will make it hard for them to compete against non-unionized rivals.

Fain, elected president of the union this spring, has been the UAW’s most combative leader in years. He has accused past UAW leaders of being too complacent, and entered these negotiations with big demands. Fain has frequently called on UAW members to remember the union’s fighting spirit from the 1930s and 1940s, and to take inspiration from its legendary leader, Walter Reuther.

Wednesday night, UAW Vice President Chuck Browning called the tentative deal “the most lucrative agreement per member since Walter Reuther was president.”

The deal arrives during a period of heightened workplace activism in the United States. Fueled by a tight labor market, surging inflation and resurgent enthusiasm for unions, workers are striking in elevated numbers this year and reaping big results for their pocketbooks.

UPS employees threatened a nationwide shutdown and won their strongest contract in decades this summer, abolishing a second tier of workers and securing 48 percent raises for part-time workers over five years. Some 75,000 Kaiser health-care workers won hardy wage increases, including a new $25 minimum wage in California.

In Hollywood, 11,000 screenwriters followed by 160,000 actors went on strike, effectively shutting down production studios. After five months, screenwriters approved a deal in September that addresses much of what they went on strike for, including pay increases for streaming content, higher staffing guarantees in writers’ rooms and safeguards against the use of artificial intelligence. Hollywood actors remain on strike, leaving much of the industry at a standstill.

The UAW began its strike in a targeted fashion Sept. 15, initially shutting down just one factory at each company. It broadened the work stoppage over time to include dozens of auto-parts warehouses and several additional factories, including vital plants that make some of the companies’ most profitable pickup trucks and SUVs.

The strike has rattled the Biden administration, which worried about a prolonged shutdown of a sector that contributes 3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. It put President Biden in a tough spot, attempting to balance the interests of the labor movement — to which he has long pledged loyalty — with those of U.S. automakers that have warned they won’t remain competitive with significantly higher labor costs.

Biden has closely followed the auto industry negotiations, becoming the first president to join a picket line with UAW workers last month.

“This tentative agreement provides a record raise to auto workers who have sacrificed so much to ensure our iconic Big Three companies can still lead the world in quality and innovation,” Biden said in a statement. “This tentative agreement is a testament to the power of employers and employees coming together to work out their differences at the bargaining table in a manner that helps businesses succeed while helping workers secure pay and benefits they can raise a family on and retire with dignity and respect,” he added.

The strike has had ripple effects beyond the picket lines. The Big Three have temporarily laid off thousands of nonstriking workers whose factories depend on striking facilities. Suppliers to the auto industry have also laid off thousands as their orders dry up.

As it headed into negotiations this summer, the UAW made its biggest demands in decades, including a 40 percent wage hike over four years, the restoration of defined-benefit pensions for all workers and a 32-hour workweek. Some of those demands were aimed at restoring benefits that the UAW lost around the time of the Great Recession in 2008, when the automakers were struggling to survive.

GM and Stellantis have offered raises of around 23 percent over four years and other perks that they say constitute their best offers to the union in decades.

After the announcement of the Ford deal Wednesday night, GM spokesman David Barnas said the company is “working constructively with the UAW to reach a tentative agreement as soon as possible.”


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