After 41 days of strike, the UAW auto union and Ford automaker reached a "tentative agreement" on Wednesday, October 25. This includes a 25 percent increase in base pay and cost-of-living differentials, the UAW said. It still needs to be ratified by workers in a vote to be held in the coming weeks. Ford said it was "pleased" with the result.
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"We've gotten things that no one thought were possible," said Shawn Fain, president of the UAW union. "Since the start of the strike, Ford has put 50% more on the table than when we walked out. This agreement puts us on a new path to turn things around at Ford, at the Big Three, and in the entire automotive industry," he added.
Biden hails 'historic' deal
The agreement was immediately hailed as "historic" by U.S. President Joe Biden, who had made the trip to the picket line in Michigan. "I salute the UAW and Ford for coming to an agreement after arduous and good faith negotiation, and for reaching a historic tentative agreement tonight," he said.
This is the first time that the "Big Three" (Ford, General Motors and Stellantis) have been targeted at the same time. The strike, linked to the drafting of upcoming collective agreements, mobilized nearly 45,000 employees in all, out of the 146,000 registered in the UAW. The latter announced that Ford workers would return to their jobs to put pressure on General Motors (GM) and Stellantis. "This is a strategic decision to get the best deal possible," said Chuck Browning, vice president of the UAW. "The last thing GM and Stellantis want is for Ford to get back to full production capacity while they're wasting time."
"We are focused on restarting the Kentucky pickup plant, Michigan assembly plant and Chicago assembly plant, getting 20,000 Ford employees back to work and delivering our full lineup to our customers," Ford CEO Jim Farley said in a statement.
Over $40 per hour
The tentative contract negotiated with Ford calls for a wage increase slightly less than the 40 percent Shawn Fain was asking for when the UAW launched the strike on Sept. 15, but it's significantly higher than the 9 percent initially proposed by Ford in August. "The agreement provides for a 2% increase in the base salary until April 2028," the union said in a statement. "It will translate, in total, into an increase of more than 30% in the highest wage, which is more than $40 an hour, and a 68% increase in the starting wage, to more than $28 an hour."
"Ford's lowest-paid workers will receive a raise of more than 150 percent over the life of the agreement," the UAW said. The agreement also abolishes wage scales that put young employees at a disadvantage, improves the pensions of current retirees and guarantees the right to strike in the event of plant closures. "Together, we are turning the tide for the working class in this country," Fain said.