Ford says EV battery plants complicating UAW negotiations

As United Auto Workers (UAW) union strikes continue to expand across the country, Ford Motor Company CEO Jim Farley said Friday the negotiations are being “held hostage” over future electric vehicle battery plants like the one being built in Kentucky.

The UAW strike, which is now in its third week, expanded today to include more facilities, including those operated by Ford, but at this point, none in Kentucky.

Strikes at Ford, GM, and Chrysler parent company Stellantis come as the multibillion-dollar investments in EV battery plants announced across the country are expected to employ thousands.

GM is the only Detroit automaker with a joint venture battery plant in operation and unionized whereas many of the others are joint ventures that cannot legally be included in the current talks, according CNBC.

“Current and former union leaders previously told CNBC that the battery plants will have to be a priority for the labor organization, regardless of whether they’re directly discussed in the national agreement, for the long-term viability of the union.”

During the press call Friday, Ford CEO Farley said the company believes they could have reached a compromise on pay and benefits but the EV plants are stalling negotiations.

“The UAW is holding the deal hostage over battery plants,” Farley said. “Keep in mind these battery plants don’t exist yet. They’re mostly joint ventures. They’ve not been organized by the UAW yet because the workers haven’t been hired and won’t be for many years to come.”

Items the union has mentioned publicly are demands like a 32-hour work week, a 36% wage increase for its members, pension benefits for all employees, more paid time off, and more.  

The UAW represents 146,000 members, 25,000 of which are currently on strike while the union pays them $500 a week to offset lost wages.

Earlier in the week, Ford announced they have paused construction on the plant in Marshall, Michigan, due to the union negotiations.

The Ford/BlueOval SK EV battery plant being built in Hardin County, Kentucky that was announced one year ago this week is expected to create 5,000 new jobs, expanding on Ford’s investment in Kentucky currently employing about 13,000 direct workers between the Louisville Assembly Plant and Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville.

Ford is not the only automaker with Kentucky ties. GM operates its Bowling Green Assembly Plant, where the Corvette is produced. Stellantis doesn’t have a plant in Kentucky but it does have operations in Indiana.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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