The United Auto Workers and Ford Motor Co. appear headed for a showdown over an old issue — moving jobs from the United States to Mexico.
In a letter to 1,500 UAW members employed at Ford’s Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake, Ohio, a top union official said Ford reneged on a commitment made during the 2019 contract negotiations to spend $900 million to prep the plant for production of a new vehicle.
“Unfortunately, Ford Motor Company has decided it will not honor its promise to add a new product to OHAP and, instead, it intends to build the next-generation vehicle in Mexico,” UAW Vice President Gerald Kariem stated in the letter, which was obtained by TheDetroitBureau.com.
Kariem, the head of UAW’s Ford Department, noted in the letter that the $900 million commitment was at the heart of the labor pact the union signed with Ford in November 2019, promising more job security for Ford workers.
Ford offers no plan for plant’s future
Ford is no longer planning to bring a new line to their Ohio Assembly Plant, or OHAP, instead moving that production to Mexico, Kariem wrote.
In his letter, Kariem said, “We expect the company to honor its contractual commitments to this membership and when it fails to do so we will take action. We have submitted data requests to the company asking them to explain the basis for the decision, but they continue to only provide us with strategically limited information. We are intensely exploring our options at this time.”
Ford says it still committed to Ohio
Jason Moore, Ohio assembly plant manager and the only Ford executive to address the issue, said in a statement, “By now, you have may have heard discussion about the future of Ohio Assembly Plant. As part of the 2019 UAW Ford CBA, the UAW’s highlights document included reference to a $900 million investment and a new product for OHAP.
“While conditions upon which the 2019 Administrative Letter were based have changed, the Company is investing in the plant and increasing production of Super Duty trucks at OHAP. That is a key development as the F-series is America’s No. 1 selling truck and customer demand is strong.”
The comments from Ford do not extend beyond the current contract, which expires in 2023, setting up a situation that is a reprise of General Motors’ decision in the summer of 2018 to award a new product to a plant in Mexico as employment at GM’s assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio was reduced. GM announced it was closing the Lordstown plant permanently a few months later.
Lordstown closing haunts union
The Lordstown plant closed for good in the spring of 2019 and the factory is now in the hands EV startup, Lordstown Motors. GM also building a new battery plant nearby. UAW workers were not offered jobs at either facility. Nonetheless, the shutdown of Lordstown created a huge controversy.
Ford Motor Co. has tried to duck the controversy about jobs, scrapping plans for building a new plant in Mexicoduring the early days of the Trump administration. Only this week, the company noted that it has added more than 100 jobs in Avon Lake and now employs more workers in the United States than any other automaker, including GM.
Nonetheless the controversy around Lordstown continues to echo inside the UAW, where the union’s leadership has been badly tarnished by a corruption scandal that has left two the union’s past presidents, Dennis Williams and Gary Jones, facing prison.
The scandal also has undermined the union’s current leadership, which is now facing a referendum on whether UAW members could decide whether to clear the way for the direct election of top officers for the first time.
Dissatisfaction with actions by union leadership, such as the deal signed with Ford in 2019, along with the corruption scandal, adds to the discontent in the union ranks. There has not been a strike against Ford since 1976 and union leaders, including UAW president Rory Gamble, tout the union’s close relations with the company.
Ford opened the assembly plant in Avon Lake in 1974 and it currently builds the Ford E-Series and the Ford F-650 and F-750.