United Auto Workers union and Ford reach tentative labor agreement

United Auto Workers union and Ford reach tentative labor agreement
6 months 4 weeks 1 day ago Wednesday, October 25 2023 Oct 25, 2023 October 25, 2023 9:27 PM October 25, 2023 in News - AP National
Source: CNN
Factory workers and UAW union members form a picket line outside the Ford Motor Co. Kentucky Truck Plant in the early morning hours on October 12, in Louisville, Kentucky. Luke Sharrett/Getty Images
Originally Published: 25 OCT 23 20:02 ET
Updated: 25 OCT 23 21:53 ET

(CNN) — A bruising 41-day strike at Ford is near an end as the United Auto Workers and its largest employer have reached a tentative deal to return 16,600 strikers to the job within days and pay workers at least 25% more between now and 2028.

But the strike will continue at America’s two other unionized automakers, General Motors, the nation’s largest car company, and Stellantis, which builds vehicles in North America under the Jeep, Ram, Dodge and Chrysler names. The 29,000 UAW members there will stay on strike until their companies agree to a similar package to the one reached with Ford.

It was the third dramatic move in the strike so far this week. On Monday, the UAW expanded the strike to Stellantis’ largest and most profitable factory, the Sterling Heights Assemby plant in Michigan where 6,800 members built the Ram 1500 pickup truck, its best-selling vehicle. On Tuesday, just hours after GM reported better than expected earnings, the union expanded the strike to the plant in Arlington, Texas, where 5,000 members built the company’s very profitable large SUVs.

UAW President Shawn Fain, in announcing the deal Wednesday night, said that those moves convinced Ford to meet the union’s demands at the barganing table. An all-night bargaining session Tuesday night and into Wednesday produced the broad outlines of the tentative deal announced just after 8 pm Wednesday.

“Our Stand Up strike has delivered,” Fain declared in a video posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“We knew we were getting close. We hit the companies with maximum effect,” Fain said. “Ford knew what was coming for them on Wednesday if we didn’t get a deal. That was checkmate.”

Ford said in a statement it was “pleased to have reached a tentative agreement.”

“Ford is proud to assemble the most vehicles in America and employ the most hourly autoworkers,” the company said. “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.”

The agreement will not go into effect until the 57,000 UAW rank-and-file members at Ford ratify the deal, a process that is likely to take more than a week. But the 16,600 UAW members who have been on strike will be returning to work before the ratification process is complete, said UAW Vice President Chuck Browning, the union’s lead negotiator with Ford.

“Like everything we’ve done in this stand-up strike, this is a strategic move,” said Browning in a recorded message he had with Fain. “We’re going back to work at Ford to keep the pressure on Stellantis and GM. The last thing they want is for Ford to get back to full capacity while they mess around and lag behind.”

Browning did not give details of when workers would return to work, saying only that it would be “soon,” adding that members would be getting details of returning to work starting Thursday. It is unusual for the union to have members go back to work before the completion of the ratification process.

The deal would give UAW members an immediate 11% pay increase and pay increases starting at 25% over the next four-and-a-half years, until the tentative contract is set to expire in early 2028. It also returns a cost-of-living adjustment to the contract that will protect workers from rising prices. When the cost-of-living adjustment is combined with the guaranteed pay increases, workers are expected to see pay increases of 30% or more during the life of the contract.

On Wednesday evening, US President Joe Biden said he applauded the union and Ford “for coming together after a hard fought, good faith negotiation and reaching a historic tentative agreement tonight.”

“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. “Ultimately, the final word on this contract will be from the UAW members themselves in the days and weeks to come.”

The union has been on strike against all three automakers since September 15, the first time in its history that it has staged a simultaneous strike against the nation’s three unionized automakers. But it has not shut down all the operations at any of the automakers, instead staging targeted strikes against specific plants at all three.

There are currently 16,600 UAW members on strike at three Ford assembly plants, including its largest, the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville.

- CNN’s DJ Judd contributed to this report

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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