WAYNE, Mich. (WXYZ) — On Thursday, Ford Motor Co. leadership fired back at the United Auto Workers for its call to strike at its Kentucky Truck Plant.
The factory has 8,700 employees who are now joining the picket line during these contract negotiations between the UAW and the Big Three. The Super Duty pickup truck, the Expedition and Lincoln Navigator are manufactured there, and the automaker said it's the largest truck plant in America.
Some Ford employees picketing in Wayne applaud UAW President Shawn Fain's latest tactic. Wayne's Ford Michigan Assembly Plant is among the three locations who've been on strike the longest, completing week number four.
“He's meaning business, showing them that he’s not playing games," Bill Kuras told 7 Action News.
Dawn Spearman said, “They needed to do that. They needed to shut down Kentucky. They need to shut down Dearborn. They need to just shut them down."
On a conference call with news media Thursday afternoon, Ford leadership explained the "aftershocks" of the strike in Kentucky.
Liz Door, Ford's chief supply chain officer, said, "The fragile supply chain will be nudged further toward collapse with this strike at Kentucky Truck Plant.”
The automaker said the plant made $25 billion for the company last year, making it among the most profitable.
Ford said the two key items they are negotiating are pensions and battery plants. They say they’re making great progress at the table and have offered a record contract.
Ford leadership said they were surprised by the UAW's escalation to strike on Wednesday. Economically, they say the automaker doesn’t have any more room for concessions.
Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford Blue, said, "As a company, if we go further, we risk the ability to invest in the business and profitably grow, and profitable growth is in everyone's best interest."
Wayne State University business professor Marick Masters said the UAW’s sudden call to strike at Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant is consistent with Fain’s hard bargaining strategy. He said that includes periodically mixing things up to throw the other side off guard.
Masters said the Kentucky Truck Plant accounted for 23% of Ford’s North American revenue last year.
“I think that it is clearly ratcheting up the pressure on Ford," he said.
The professor said Fain has essentially given Stellantis and General Motors advanced notice. He said Fain ratcheting up the pressure is necessary to re-invigorate UAW members on the picket line, as they are only receiving $500 a week in strike pay.
“They’re going to be feeling a little restless about having been out so long and not seeing the parties closer to any tentative agreement, and he’s got to respond to that pressure,” Masters explained.
Spearman said, “We’ve been out in the rain. People are getting sick. People are starting to go back on their bills. It’s about time that other plants start standing up with us.”