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Louisville Ford plants remain active as UAW continues automaker strike

A blue building that says "LOCAL 862" on the front
Jacob Munoz
More than 12,000 Ford workers represented by UAW Local 862 could go on strike amid tense contract negotiations.

United Auto Workers failed to reach new four-year contract agreements with Ford, Stellantis and General Motors last week. The union is asking employees to walk out at certain facilities, and Louisville workers are waiting to join the strike.

The UAW represents about 145,000 workers across the companies, also known as the Big Three and the Detroit Three.

For the first time in its history, the union launched a strike at all three automakers at once. But instead of having all of its members walk out at once, it’s using a “stand up strike” approach: starting the strike at a limited number of facilities and growing that number over time.

It also allows the union to preserve its strike fund, which it will use to pay workers who participate in collective action after eight days.

UAW Local 862 represents around 12,500 total Ford workers at the Louisville Assembly Plant and the Kentucky Truck Plant in Jefferson County, according to its president Todd Dunn.

In an interview Friday, Dunn said he anticipated hearing an update on Monday from the international union about its strike plan.

He said the Kentucky Truck Plant could be a strong UAW strike target. In May, Ford CEO Jim Farley called it the company’s most profitable global plant.

“[When] you're navigating yourself and trying to create leverage, you’ve got that option. You’ve got other options to where you can move the needle faster,” he said.

Dunn said his main focus isn’t the strike, but seeing UAW secure a new contract agreement.

“We’ve got people that are working two jobs that haven't been able to save for, you know, anything, and they're trying to navigate their lives and family. So there's concern out there. But there’s also the same solidarity,” he said.

Negotiations between the UAW and the Big Three automakers have been testy, with president Shawn Fain criticizing the companies for resisting the union’s lofty goals despite making record profits and providing substantial CEO raises.

The UAW is seeking pay raises that mirror the percentages of CEO salary jumps, a 32-hour and 4-day work week, and increased retiree pay, among other changes. As recently as last week, Fain said none of the three companies had matched most of its goals.

In a press release Thursday, before the strike, Ford said the union’s demands were “unsustainable” and said they “would more than double Ford’s current UAW-related labor costs.”

Jenn Thompson, who works at the Kentucky Truck Plant as a forklift driver, said she supports UAW’s goal of eliminating a tiered pay system that requires hourly employees to work for eight years before reaching the top rate.

The union is pushing for a 90-day period instead, while the automakers want a four-year period.

“No one should be working across from anyone making less than them,” Thompson said.

She also said she had never participated in a strike before.

“It always makes you nervous because, I mean, the whole goal is for us to get a fair contract, not necessarily to be sitting out, you know. But… I'm ready to do what I have to do,” Thompson said.

Thompson was one of a few dozen workers represented by UAW Local 862 who went to Detroit on Friday for a rally to support other Ford workers at the city’s Michigan Assembly Plant. They went on strike as soon as the contracts expired.

Later that day, Ford said it temporarily laid off about 600 non-union workers at the plant over productivity issues related to the walk-off, according to CBS News.

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