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Ford workers in Louisville practice strike amid union negotiations

Two men stand in the bed of a pickup trick. One holds a microphone, speaking to a crowd of union workers in support of the United Auto Workers in their union negotiations with major American auto makers.
Jacob Munoz
Shawn Fain (far left) and Todd Dunn (second from left) rallied Ford workers and union supporters ahead of a practice picket Thursday afternoon.

United Auto Workers is negotiating new four-year national contracts with Ford, Stellantis and General Motors. Talks with the automakers, known as the Big Three and Detroit Three, began last month.

UAW’s individual collective bargaining agreements with the three companies end on September 14. The union has threatened to strike at each automaker if the sides can’t reach deals.

UAW Local 862 represents about 12,000 Ford employees who work at the company’s Kentucky Truck Plant and Louisville Assembly Plant, both in Jefferson County.

On Thursday afternoon, the local union held a rally and its first of two practice pickets for Ford workers in the city, joined by UAW international president Shawn Fain. The Thursday demonstration was held close to the Kentucky Truck Plant, while a second picket is scheduled for Friday afternoon near the Louisville Assembly Plant.

Speaking to a crowd of workers and union supporters, Fain repeated UAW’s lofty goal of securing wage increases above 40% in the next contract, which he said would be in line with pay raises the Big Three CEOs made over the past four years.

“They want us to accept that the billionaires, they keep making their billions in profits, that the CEOs keep making their millions in salaries. And we keep living paycheck to paycheck,” Fain said.

Among UAW’s demands, it’s seeking to restore cost of living adjustments that were nixed during the Great Recession and guarantee it would represent workers at new electric battery plants, like two upcoming Ford facilities in Glendale, Kentucky.

While UAW has threatened to have members walk off the job — Local 862 members nearly unanimously voted to authorize a strike, in a symbolic action earlier this week — Fain said the union would rather reach a strong deal.

“Our plan is not to strike. Our plan is to bargain a great agreement and to win economic justice for our membership. That's the plan. But…we may end up there,” Fain said.

Local 862 president Todd Dunn and U.S. Representative Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat whose district covers most of Jefferson County, joined Fain at the rally.

Dunn said turnout was strong by the local union’s standards.

“This by far is 10 to 20 times more than what I've seen in the past at some of our events. This was a great showing of solidarity, people came together today to send a message,” he said.

Kelli Felker, Ford’s manufacturing and labor communications manager, provided an emailed statement on ongoing contract negotiations attributed to the company.

“We look forward to working with the UAW on creative solutions during this time when our dramatically changing industry needs a skilled and competitive workforce more than ever,’ said the statement.

Felker said Ford has more than 57,000 UAW-represented hourly workers across the country.

Terrence Parham has worked at Ford for about 10 years and attended Thursday’s event. He said his job at the Kentucky Truck Plant involves tough working conditions that can lead to physical strain like repetitive motion injuries.

He said that wear-and-tear makes one of the union’s demands — allowing all employees to obtain a pension — a crucial need.

“You're going to spend your retirement money on that. You're not going to have a pension to help you pay your bills and offset some of that because you're gonna destroy your body working here,” Parham said.

The Kentucky Truck Plant manufactures Ford Super Duty Trucks, Ford Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators, according to Ford. Last year the company invested $700 million in the plant and committed to add around 500 new jobs there by 2026.

The Louisville Assembly Plant makes Ford Escapes and Lincoln Corsairs.

Jacob is LPM's Business and Development Reporter. Email Jacob at jmunoz@lpm.org.

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