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Louisville Ford Workers Vote on New Contact

2017 Escape Still
Ford Motor Co.
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Union workers at Ford’s two Louisville plants are casting votes on a new four-year contract on Tuesday — the same day the automaker unveiled design changes to the Ford Escape, which is manufactured in Louisville.

The contract terms negotiated by the United Auto Workers and Ford include an $8,500 signing bonus for union members and enhancements in health care plans. There are nearly 9,000 UAW workers between the Louisville Assembly Plant and the Kentucky Truck Plant.

In addition, Ford has agreed to invest $9 billion in its U.S. production facilities, including $1.3 billion at the two Louisville plants. The Detroit automaker has not provided details on the upgrades.

The Louisville Assembly Plant produces the Ford Escape and the Lincoln MKC SUV.

Ford unveiled a redesign of the midsize Escape SUV in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Changes include a bigger grill to match other vehicles in the Ford lineup, such as the Fusion sedan and the Edge SUV. The company is also upgrading the Escape's SYNC technology system to include smartphone app integration, allowing drivers to start, lock and unlock, and locate their cars with their phones.

Ford marketing manager Crystal Worthem said the Louisville plant is critical to the success of the Escape.

“The relationship with Louisville is critical," she said. "It’s a fantastic plant and a fantastic relationship that Ford has developed and continues to cultivate.”

Local UAW officials did not return a request for comment ahead of the voting, which closes at 10 p.m. In a posting shared on the local union's website, national UAW leaders praised the tentative contract, saying it provides "significant economic gains for all members."

In a statement last week, Gov. Steve Beshear praised the proposed labor deal.

“The tentative agreement between Ford and the United Auto Workers holds the potential for significant investment by Ford in both of its Kentucky plants," he said. "I’m glad this agreement, while still developing, looks to continue Ford’s decades-long commitment to vehicle production and employment in the commonwealth.”

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Stephen George is President and CEO of Louisville Public Media. Email Stephen at sgeorge@lpm.org.