UAW, Ford announce tentative agreement, ending strike for 20,000 workers

Oct. 26, 2023
Production could restart soon, even before ratification vote; suppliers should prepare now to avoid supply chain interruptions. Strike continues at GM, Stellantis.

By Karen Hanna

Plants disrupted by the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike of Ford Motor Co. could soon return to more normal operations with the announcement on the evening of Oct. 25 of a tentative agreement Meanwhile, to tighten the pressure on Stellantis and General Motors (GM), the union has urged Ford  workers to return to work  — even before they ratify the new contract, and  even as strikes continue at the other companies.

Terry Onica, a supply chain expert who has worked in the automotive industry since 1989, said manufacturers connected to the industry should assess their operations and keep close ties to both their suppliers and customers. To gain better visibility into the supply chain, she recommends enterprise resource planning tools and other technologies, like those offered by QAD, where she is the director for automotive business.

“I think CEOs need to get out to the plant and go see what they’re really doing because, in a lot of cases, they’re working on very old software, very archaic software,” she said. To help steer manufacturers through the process of ramping up operations, QAD offers a  13-point restart checklist covering items such as inventory, contingency planning and workforce planning.

In a statement issued Oct. 25, Ford CEO and President Jim Farley said the company looks forward to full operations.

“Ford is proud to assemble the most vehicles in America and employ the most hourly autoworkers. We are focused on restarting Kentucky Truck Plant, Michigan Assembly Plant and Chicago Assembly Plant, calling 20,000 Ford employees back to work and shipping our full lineup to our customers again,” he said.

As of earlier in the week, around 45,000 UAW members were striking against the Big Three, including Ford.

In a live-streamed presentation on Oct. 25, UAW President Shawn Fain and UAW Vice President Chuck Browning laid out the highlights of the tentative Ford contract — which comes 41 days after the union took the unprecedented step of striking all the Big Three automakers at once in a strategy called its Stand Up strike.

“We are calling on all Ford strikers to go back to work while we vote on our tentative agreement. Like everything we’ve done in this Stand Up strike, this is a strategic move to get the best deal possible. We’re going back to work at Ford to keep the pressure on Stellantis and GM,” Browning said. “The last thing they want is for Ford to get back to full capacity while they mess around and lag behind.”

The tentative contract includes a number of big wins for the union, he and Fain said:

  • an immediate wage increase of at least 11 percent,
  • a 25 percent increases in base wages through April 2028, 
  • a 68 percent for the starting wage, to over $28 an hour,
  • raises of over 150 percent for temporary workers,
  • the reinstatement of cost-of-living allowances and a three-year wage progression, both lost during the Great Recession,
  • the elimination of tiered employment statuses,
  • the right to strike over plant closures — a first for the union, and
  • increases for retired members

Cumulatively, if ratified, the contract would raise the top wage by over 30 percent to more than $40 an hour.  The lowest-paid workers at Ford would see a raise of more than 150 percent over the life of the agreement, with some workers receiving an immediate 85 percent increase immediately upon ratification.

With base-wage increases that exceed anything Ford workers have received in 22 years, the gains in the  deal are valued at more than four times the gains from the 2019 contract, according to a UAW press release.

According to Fain, UAW’s leaders in its national Ford Council planned to travel to Detroit on October 29.

Meanwhile, on Oct. 25 — one day after the UAW expanded its strike to GM’s biggest plant, in Arlington, Texas — Champion Plastics President Jeff Ignatowski said his molding shop, a Tier 2 (T2) supplier, was in wait-and-see mode.

“Since we supply as a T2 to Arlington, I’m sure we will get a delayed response regarding any changes to our releases in the upcoming days. However, to be proactive, we are going to get lean with overtime and relocate employees to other higher-volume stable projects (i.e. Toyota).  Our goal is not to get to a point of layoffs as we would prefer to keep our established and trusted workforce intact,” he said.

Champion Plastics, in Auburn Hills, Mich., has around 25-30 workers.

An Oct. 20 blog post by the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association acknowledged the strike's impact on Tier 2 suppliers. Titled, "Vehicle suppliers grow increasingly concerned over Tier 2 supplier financial viability," it announced survey results that found 80 percent of suppliers that have yet to begin layoffs indicated they will let workers go starting in early November if the strike is not resolved. 


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About the Author

Karen Hanna | Senior Staff Reporter

Senior Staff Reporter Karen Hanna covers injection molding, molds and tooling, processors, workforce and other topics, and writes features including In Other Words and Problem Solved for Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing, Plastics Recycling and The Journal of Blow Molding. She has more than 15 years of experience in daily and magazine journalism.