WASHINGTON: Auto giant Ford’s executive chairman on Monday urged workers to end their month-long strike, warning a prolonged stoppage could have a major economic impact.
The remarks by Bill Ford came just days after the head of the US auto workers’ union said its strike had entered a new stage involving last-minute walkouts.
Nearly 34,000 United Auto Workers (UAW) members are now on strike — a number that has grown since the initial September 15 move to shut down one plant at each of the “Big Three” automakers: Ford, General Motors and Jeep maker Stellantis.
“The supply base is very fragile, and will start collapsing with an expanded strike,” Ford said at his company’s Rouge assembly plant in Michigan.
In a rare intervention during an ongoing strike, he called for workers to “come together to bring an end to this acrimonious round of talks”.
Ford, the fourth member of his family to lead the company, also warned about the potential loss of future investments, factories and jobs as the impasse continues.
Ford shares closed 1.0% higher.
In a written response, UAW President Shawn Fain countered: “If Ford wants to be the all-American auto company, they can pay all-American wages and benefits.”
In September, President Joe Biden noted that workers had not been able to benefit from enormous corporate profits, which exceeded US$20 billion for the three giants in just the first half of 2023.
“Record corporate profits — which they have — should be shared by record contracts for the UAW,” he said at the White House.
Days later, Biden joined striking workers on the picket line in Michigan — becoming the first sitting president to do so.
Temperatures have risen at the negotiating table, with the UAW announcing last week an immediate walkout at Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, where some of the company’s most profitable models are built.
The Kentucky action came after Ford spoke of sweetening its economic offer “for two weeks”, UAW’s Fain said last Friday.
But when both sides met, Ford offered the same terms as before, he added.
On Monday, Ford appealed to workers to band together against competitors like Japanese carmakers Toyota and Honda, as well as Chinese automakers — in asking for an end to the strike.
But Fain said: “It’s not the UAW and Ford against foreign automakers. It’s autoworkers everywhere against corporate greed.”
“Workers at Tesla, Toyota, Honda, and others are not the enemy — they’re the UAW members of the future,” he added.
The industrial action marks the first joint strike at the three major automakers, as workers push for higher wages and other improvements.
In particular, these relate to the transition to making electric vehicles.