As the clock struck midnight Thursday, the UAW launched a historic strike against the Detroit Three automakers.
The action came after Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, which owns the Jeep, Ram, Chrysler, Dodge and Fiat brands, failed to reach an agreement on a new labor contract with the UAW — the union representing roughly 150,000 autoworkers nationwide — before the contract expired at 11:59 p.m. Thursday.
Workers went on strike at GM Wentzville Assembly in Missouri, Stellantis Toledo Assembly in Ohio and Ford Michigan Assembly Plant (final assembly and paint only).
"Tonight, for the first time in our history, we will strike all three of the Big Three at once," said International UAW President Shawn Fain, who called the action a "stand up strike."
The UAW confirmed that about 13,000 members across the three plants are walking the picket lines. Fain joined the Michigan workers in the early hours Friday and headed to the picket line in Toledo later Friday.
The two Ford assembly plants based in Louisville are not being asked to strike and will continue to work; however, this is subject to change. Fain said he wants to keep the companies guessing to encourage them to move closer to meeting member demands at the bargaining table.
"If we need to go all out, we will," Fain said during a Facebook Live Thursday at 10 p.m. "Everything is on the table."
The UAW's new stand up strike strategy allows union leadership to call on specific locals around the country and ask them to "stand up" and strike at their respective plants. This strategy is intended to give the UAW more flexibility in striking and will allow it to focus on multiple facilities across the three companies.
The autoworkers who remain in non-striking plants, including Louisville, will work under an expired contract. Fain said the automakers' management cannot change the terms and conditions of work under the expired contract.
Friday afternoon, just hours after the auto workers walked off the job in Michigan, Missouri and Ohio, President Joe Biden urged the Detroit automakers to share record profits with their employees, USA Today reported.
"The bottom line is that auto workers helped create America's middle class," Biden said during a livestream. "They deserve a contract that sustains them and the middle class."
In Louisville, UAW Local 862 represents about 12,000 workers at the area's two Ford assembly plants, Kentucky Truck Plant and Louisville Assembly Plant. The UAW also represents General Motors workers in Bowling Green at the Bowling Green Assembly plant, where the Chevrolet Corvette is produced.
Here's what we know about what is happening at the Ford plants in Louisville.
What could happen in Louisville if Kentucky Truck and Louisville Assembly are not called to strike?
On Thursday, hours before the contract expired, Ford sources shared a possibility of what could happen in Louisville. If the UAW were to strike components plants — places where Ford manufactures vehicle parts such as transmissions — the company itself would eventually need to shut down assembly plants as they would no longer have work to do as a result of the supply chain issue created by the strike.
As of this publication, UAW has not called any components plants to strike, only assembly plants.
However, in the event that a strike at components plants has a trickle-down effect at the Kentucky Truck Plant and/or Louisville Assembly Plant, Ford would be able to shut down production at these plants in a similar fashion to when the company idled production at the Louisville Assembly Plant while dealing with quality control issues in February.
Ford sources said the company would not be able to run plants like Kentucky Truck and Louisville Assembly Plant, which combined employ about 12,000 UAW employees, with only salaried personnel. Ford sources said the company has prepared more than 1,300 salaried workers to work in more than 20 parts depots across the company, but the company will not be able to fulfill the work done by hourly workers at larger assembly plants.
Ford sources estimate that if a components plant experiences a continuous strike, it could take between two and 12 days before assembly plants across the country, like Kentucky Truck and Louisville Assembly Plant, begin to be shut down due to supply chain issues.
What is UAW Local 862 President Todd Dunn saying?
UAW Local 862 President Todd Dunn, the long-serving president of Local 862 said, "Our focus now is to continue to hone in on our list execution for gate duties. This will give us a chance to be well coordinated for when we are called upon … and prepare for that next step.”
On Friday, UAW is hosting a rally in Detroit, and Local 862 will be bussing workers north to participate. Dunn, however, will stay back in Louisville and work with his local committee people to prepare for a possible strike or a Ford-issued work stoppage at the Louisville plants.
Dunn expects the international UAW to return to the bargaining table Saturday.
“If they don't get an agreement … they have an opportunity to call on someone else, and we’re preparing for that," Dunn said late Thursday night.
For workers at Kentucky Truck and Louisville Assembly plants, if a strike at other components plants causes Ford to shut down the Louisville-based plants, UAW workers would be eligible to receive state unemployment benefits, but they would not qualify for Ford supplemental employment benefits or strike pay, Ford sources said.
Dunn has been in communication with Governor Andy Beshear's office regarding workers filing for unemployment. Dunn believes some of the requirements for filing for unemployment such as applying for other jobs and a waiting period may hinder Ford workers from filing and claiming benefits. During a traditional work stoppage, Ford files unemployment electronically for workers, but Dunn suspects this will not be the case if a work stoppage is called as a result of a strike.
How is UAW strike impacting you? Submit a letter to the editor.
What is Ford saying?
In a statement released by Ford immediately following the Facebook Live hosted by Fain Thursday night, the company said, "Ford remains absolutely committed to reaching an agreement that rewards our employees and protects Ford’s ability to invest in the future as we move through industry-wide transformation."
The company said the UAW did not present a counteroffer to its Sept. 12 proposal until 8 p.m. Thursday.
"Unfortunately, the UAW’s counterproposal tonight showed little movement from the union’s initial demands submitted Aug. 3," the company statement read. "If implemented, the proposal would more than double Ford’s current UAW-related labor costs, which are already significantly higher than the labor costs of Tesla, Toyota and other foreign-owned automakers in the United States that utilize non-union-represented labor."
What is the UAW demanding?
Recently, negotiations have taken a sharp focus on increased pay for workers, with Fain, who was sworn into office in March as the first UAW president directly elected by the members, demanding pay raises upward of 40% for workers.
A major sticking point in negotiations this year is cost-of-living adjustments or COLA, the Courier Journal previously reported. The union wants to see COLA returned; it was originally suspended in 2009 in response to the financial crisis. The union believes the return of COLA would provide better financial conditions for workers. Ford sources, however, disagree, stating the current structure of general wage increases plus inflation bonuses of $1,500 per year have far exceeded the benefits COLA would provide.
A Ford source previously told the Courier Journal that the goal during negotiations this year is protecting American jobs since 80% of Ford vehicles are made in the U.S., rewarding employees' hard work, navigating the transition to electric vehicle production, and maintaining flexibility to respond to customer demands.
Contact business reporter Olivia Evans at email@example.com or on Twitter at @oliviamevans_.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: UAW strike update: Union, automakers fail to reach new labor contract