Ford union workers ratify UAW deal, closing out historic negotiations with Detroit automakers

Members of the United Auto Workers union picket outside the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, on Sept. 26, 2023.

Matthew Hatcher | AFP | Getty Images

DETROIT — Union members at Ford Motor approved a tentative agreement Friday, concluding contentious contract negotiations between the United Auto Workers and Detroit automakers.

UAW-Ford workers were the last of the automakers to ratify their pact after General Motors workers narrowly approved an agreement Thursday and Stellantis workers supported their agreement, according to preliminary vote results published Friday by the union.

According to the UAW’s vote tracker, which must still be finalized, the Ford deal was supported by 68.2% of the nearly 35,000 autoworkers at Ford who voted. There were still a few smaller facilities left to finalize voting, but there aren’t enough employees at those locations to offset the more than 12,600-vote margin.

Local UAW chapters representing every Ford plant voted in favor of the pact aside from a small parts facility in Florida and the automaker’s massive Kentucky Truck Plant, as of early Friday afternoon. The plant that pushed ratification over the edge was the Dearborn Truck Plant in Michigan, with roughly 2,700 members voting in support of the deal by 78.7%, according to the union’s vote tracker.

Ford and the UAW didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The contract ratifications come weeks after the automakers and union reached tentative deals, ending about six weeks of targeted strikes by the UAW. The strikes, which began on Sept. 15, involved targeted work stoppages that expanded plant by plant as a means of ratcheting up pressure on the automakers.

Preliminary results at Stellantis showed 68.4% support by hourly workers who voted. At GM, the vote returned 54.7% approval.

GM’s voting was closer, in part, due to the demographics of the company’s workforce. The automaker has the highest number of traditional workers on a percentage basis compared with its crosstown rivals. Such workers have voiced disapproval for the wage increases granted to them by the deals, compared with those offered to newer hires. They were also dissatisfied with pension contributions and retirement benefits.

Still, the agreements are record-setting for the union, which was far more confrontational and strategic during the talks than in recent history, as promised by UAW President Shawn Fain, who started leading the union in March.

The deals include wage increases of at least 25%, the return of cost-of-living adjustments and other economic improvements. The union said improvements are valued at more than four times the gains from the 2019 contract and provide more in base wage increases than workers have received in the past 22 years.

For the union and Fain, the deals and the associated economic gains help in efforts to grow the union’s ranks through inclusion of future jobs such as those at battery plants and organizing at other nonunion automakers operating in the U.S.

For the companies as well as their investors, the contracts represent the top end of forecast increases in labor costs.

Ford CFO John Lawler in October said the UAW deal, if ratified by members, would add $850 to $900 in costs per vehicle assembled. He said Ford will work to “find productivity and efficiencies and cost reductions throughout the company” to offset the additional costs and deliver on previously announced profitability targets.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2023/11/17/uaw-ford-workers-ratify-new-contract.html

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