U.A.W. Expands Strike to Ford Plant in Kentucky

The United Automobile Workers union expanded its strike against Ford Motor on Wednesday evening, calling on 8,700 workers to walk off the job at a critical plant in Kentucky.

The plant makes some of Ford’s most profitable offerings, including the Super Duty version of its F-Series trucks and the Ford Expedition, a full-size sport utility vehicle.

The union and the company had appeared to make progress toward a new contract in recent weeks. But at an afternoon bargaining session, U.A.W. negotiators sought a sweetened offer from the company and Ford declined.

The union’s president, Shawn Fain, who attended the meeting at Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., then informed Ford that he was calling for an immediate strike at the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, according to both union and company officials.

“You just lost Kentucky Truck,” Mr. Fain said, and he and the other U.A.W. negotiators left the meeting only minutes after it had started, these officials said.

The U.A.W. is staging an escalating strike campaign against selected Ford, General Motors and Stellantis plants to press the terms it is demanding in contracts replacing those that expired last month.

The union is now on strike at three Ford plants. The others are in Lansing, Mich., and Chicago.

The strike has also shut plants in Missouri and Michigan that are owned by G.M., and one in Ohio owned by Stellantis, the maker of Chrysler, Jeep and Ram vehicles. U.A.W. workers have also walked off the job at 38 G.M. and Stellantis parts warehouses around the country. Including the workers at the Kentucky plant, nearly 34,000 of the 150,000 U.A.W. members employed by the three companies are on strike.

Losing production at Kentucky Truck is a significant financial blow for Ford. It is the company’s largest plant in the world. In the first nine months of this year, it produced more than 300,000 vehicles. The stoppage is likely to force Ford to halt production at a stamping plant at the same location.

Last year, Ford said it was investing $700 million in the Kentucky plant, a move that would create 500 additional jobs.

“We have been crystal clear, and we have waited long enough, but Ford has not gotten the message,” Mr. Fain said in a statement. “It’s time for a fair contract at Ford and the rest of the Big Three. If they can’t understand that after four weeks, the 8,700 workers shutting down this extremely profitable plant will help them understand it.”

In a statement, Ford said it had made a “record offer” to the union that “would make a meaningful positive difference in the quality of life” of the 57,000 U.A.W. members employed by the company. It said the expansion of the strikes to the Kentucky plant was “grossly irresponsible” and had “serious consequences for our work force, suppliers, dealers and commercial customers.”

The U.A.W. has demanded substantial wage increases from the companies. On Friday, Mr. Fain said Ford had offered raises of 23 percent over four years. G.M. and Stellantis have offered about 21 percent.

Ford previously agreed to other provisions, like allowing workers to rise to the top U.A.W. wage in four years instead of eight, providing cost-of-living adjustments if inflation remains high and giving the union the right to strike over plant closings.

Ford last made a substantial new offer to the union on Oct. 3, according to both sides.

U.A.W. negotiators had asked Ford for an in-person meeting on Wednesday, and negotiators gathered in a large boardroom, officials from both sides said. Ford had expected to discuss matters like union representation of workers at new battery plants that are still under construction and at least a year or more away from hiring staff, a company official said.

Last week, in what he described as a major breakthrough, Mr. Fain said G.M. was now willing to include workers at its battery factories in the company’s national contract with the U.A.W.

At Wednesday’s session with Ford, Mr. Fain quickly asked if the company had a comprehensive new offer to put on the table — one with improved salary terms, according to a union official briefed on the matter. When Ford officials said they did not, Mr. Fain replied, “This is all you have for us?” and announced that the strike would be extended to the Kentucky factory, the official said.

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