US Auto Workers Union Reaches Preliminary Deal With Ford – On Wednesday evening, the United Auto Workers union in the United States achieved a preliminary accord with Ford, marking a significant development in the 41-day work stoppage involving the three major car manufacturers based in Detroit. This agreement, subject to ratification by the union’s regular members through a vote, encompasses a 25% boost in wages for hourly workers, as announced by the United Auto Workers.
It also introduces important features such as assured cost-of-living adjustments, the removal of disparate pay levels affecting junior workers, and the right to strike in response to plant closures. “For months we’ve said that record profits mean record contracts,” said UAW President Shawn Fain in a statement. “And UAW family, our Stand Up Strike has delivered.” Ford confirmed the agreement, saying “we are pleased to have reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract with the UAW covering our U.S. operations.”
Also cheering was U.S. President Joe Biden, who hailed an “historic accord,” saying “I applaud the UAW and Ford for coming together after a hard-fought, good-faith negotiation and reaching a historic tentative agreement tonight.” In September, President Biden achieved a historic milestone by becoming the first U.S. president to show support for the UAW’s demand for “unprecedented” contracts in response to the record-breaking profits in the auto industry.
While the wage increase in the preliminary agreement falls short of the 40% initially sought by Fain when the UAW initiated the strike on September 15, which marked the first-ever simultaneous stoppage of Detroit’s Big Three (Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis), it significantly exceeds the initial 9% raise proposed by Ford in August.
“This agreement sets us on a new path to make things right at Ford, at the Big Three, and across the auto industry,” Fain said, while stressing that the final decision rests with members. “We’re going to let that democratic process take its course,” said Fain, calling the rank-and-file “the highest authority.”
Fain explained that the ratification process will involve comprehensive online presentations and regional meetings. Earlier this month, Mack Trucks workers, after rejecting a preliminary agreement negotiated by UAW representatives, voted in favor of going on strike. Initially, the UAW strike focused on three plants, with 12,700 employees walking out.
However, in the subsequent weeks, the union gradually extended the strike as it pursued a better deal. Before the agreement with Ford, over 45,000 workers were participating in the strike. The UAW represents approximately 146,000 auto workers in the United States. In the last two days alone, the UAW intensified the strike at both Stellantis and GM, impacting crucial factories in Michigan and Texas responsible for producing some of the companies’ most profitable vehicles.
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GM and Stellantis are currently offering 2% wage increases. Fain has argued that, considering union concessions made after bankruptcy reorganizations over a decade ago, the companies should improve their offer. Typically, after a preliminary agreement, labor unions don’t end a strike until the accord is approved by their members. However, in an unexpected move, the UAW announced that Ford workers would return to work to exert pressure on GM and Stellantis.