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UAW accuses Ford of 'greed,' violating contract with plan to send jobs to Mexico

Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

Ford Motor Co. "has decided it will not honor its promise" to add new product to the Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake and, instead, the autoworker intends to farm out jobs to Mexico, wrote a top UAW leader to union officials in an angry two-page letter dated Friday.

"Ford management expects us to hang our heads and accept the decision. But let me be clear, we are making a different choice," wrote Gerald Kariem, UAW vice president of the Ford Department since January 2020. "We 100% reject the company's decision to put corporate greed and more potential profits over American jobs and the future of our members."

The letter written on union letterhead, which copied UAW President Rory Gamble and the labor organization's two top lawyers, said Ford is expected to honor its contractual commitments to UAW members "and when it fails to do so we will take action."

At the start of the 2019 contract negotiations, Kariem wrote, the bargaining team focused on job security and keeping manufacturing in the U.S. He noted that UAW Local 2000 worked hard to get Ford to commit to a $900 million investment to revitalize the plant near Cleveland for a product to be added in 2023.

An estimated 1,700 hourly employees work at the plant, which is referred to as OHAP, the UAW told the Free Press.

"The agreement outlined an exciting vision for the complete revitalization of the OHAP facility that would secure OHAP employment well into the foreseeable future," Kariem wrote. "These contractual commitments were an enormous win for the UAW, for the great state of Ohio, the community of Avon Lake and most importantly the members of Local 2000."

In November 2019, the Ohio press reported that Ford had committed to the $900 million investment and 1,500 new jobs to OHAP.

The plant builds the E-series Vans, Super Duty chassis cabs and medium-duty trucks.

Ford said Tuesday the issues of concern surfaced during the Q&A portion of a recent web chat with plant employees. Kelli Felker, Ford global manufacturing and labor communications manager, declined to discuss details of who was involved in the web chat.

The union apparently was caught by surprise.

"We have submitted data requests to the company asking them to explain the basis for this decision, but they continue to only provide us with strategically limited information," wrote Kariem, who is known to be mild-mannered and a vocal supporter of Ford.

"We are intensely exploring our options at this time and I will keep the members of Local 2000 informed of our next steps," he wrote. "Even though the situation is rapidly evolving, I feel it is of extreme importance to continuously communicate vital updates associated with this situation."

In response to the UAW letter, Felker declined to confirm whether Ford is keeping its commitment to the plant.

"We are always looking at our options," she said.

"We still plan to invest $6 billion and create and retain 8,500 jobs in America during the course of this four-year contract," she said. "We are invested in Ohio Assembly Plant and our dedicated workforce there. Since 2019, we have invested more than $185 million and created and retained more than 100 jobs at Ohio Assembly Plant, including actions planned for this year. This includes increasing our capacity to build additional Super Duty trucks at Ohio Assembly Plant to meet strong consumer demand."

In addition, she provided the following responses to questions submitted by the Free Press:

 

Is Ford planning to add jobs in Mexico that would have been in Ohio? "We have no additional details to provide at this time."

How does Ford feel about its actions characterized as corporate greed? "Ford is committed to manufacturing in America. According to a study by the Boston Consulting Group, Ford in the U.S. supports approximately 1 million American jobs, representing 5-6 jobs for every direct Ford employee. Ford in the U.S. contributes $100 billion to the U.S. GDP through production and multiplier effects. Ford assembles almost twice as many full-sized trucks in the U.S as either General Motors or FCA."

How did the UAW hear about this situation if not directly from Ford? "We couldn’t speak for the UAW."

Why is the UAW accusing Ford of not providing information? "We couldn’t speak for the UAW."

Kariem wrote in his letter to members, "We have risen to every challenge thrown our way since our founding in 1935. This institution has always rolled with the punches and punched back above our weight. We will work through this. Please stay safe and remember that we are all in this together."

After the UAW released its letter demanding answers, Ford plant manager Jason Moore wrote a response to plant employees on Monday that began, “By now, you have may have heard discussion about the future of Ohio Assembly Plant.”

Moore acknowledged the 2019 contract that included the investment and a new product for OHAP, and said that — while conditions have changed — the company is investing in the plant and increasing production of Super Duty trucks.

Moore reminded workers about Ford's commitments from from 2019 to present, “coupled with planned actions yet to be taken” this year:

"Full-time labor and base operation additions totaling more than 100 people, including some planned for this year." "Continued Investment to add overall capacity, increase Super Duty production, launch updated new models, and modernize the facility totaling more than $185 million in the three years from 2019 to 2021." "If we go back a bit further, the investment in 2015/2016 to source the F-650/F-750 Medium Duty and Super Duty products to Ohio Assembly Plant resulted in more than 700 full-time positions created or retained, and a $325 million investment."

This latest situation comes in the weeks following news that Ford UAW workers received smaller profit sharing checks than their Detroit Three counterparts; Stellantis announced this month $8,010 for its hourly workers; Ford workers are getting $3,625 and General Motors workers are receiving $9,000 this year.

Ford project cited in award

Meanwhile, Ohio just won recognition for its ability to recruit business and investment with an award that specifically cited the Ford plant, according to a March 3 article in the Elyria, Ohio-based Chronicle-Telegram. It mentioned new product made at the plant is expected to roll out in 2023.

“Ohio continues to attract new corporate facilities and businesses to invest here,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said. "In Ohio, we have a strong business community that will work alongside new companies who are looking to invest and utilize our skilled workforce.”

Two of Ford's newest vehicles are built in Mexico the 2021 Bronco Sport and 2021 all-electric Mustang Mach-E. Ford is the largest employer of hourly automotive workers in the U.S. The company employs approximately 186,000 people worldwide.

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