Changed relationship will hurt autoworkers

Those autoworkers down south who are being courted by Shawn Fain should pay close attention to the message sent by Ford Motor Co. earlier this month.

Chief Executive Jim Farley, talking to the Wolfe Research Auto Conference in New York, said in light of the prolonged strike last fall by the United Auto Workers, the automaker will “have to think carefully” about where it builds future vehicles.

“Our reliance on the UAW turned out to be we were the first truck plant to be shut down,” Farley said, noting Ford had previously decided to build all of its highly profitable pickups in the U.S. with union labor. “Really our relationship has changed. It’s been a watershed moment for the company.”

Listen up Volkswagen workers in Tennessee, Toyota workers in Kentucky, Nissan workers in Mississippi and autoworkers everywhere UAW President Fain is waving the historic contract he wrested from the Detroit Three to end the strike.

His gangster-style negotiating tactics may win higher wages and benefits, but they ultimately kill jobs.

The same week Farley indicated Ford is rethinking its commitment to the UAW, the company’s chief operating officer for the EV division, Marin Gjaja, warned of the “colossal thereat” China presents to domestic electric vehicle makers.

He warned China is rapidly emerging as a low-cost EV manufacturer and its potential to dominate the market is real.

“So, we better get fit now and better get going on EVs, or we don’t have a future,” Gjaja said.

Getting fit means, in part, cutting costs.

Take the statements from Farley and Gjaja together and it’s fair warning that Ford, and other automakers will be looking to build EVs where they can be built most efficiently.

Cost isn’t the only factor. The UAW strike against Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, as Farley noted, changed what had been almost a partnership between the automakers and the union into a far more confrontational and unpredictable association.

The new world of automotive manufacturing requires a cooperative and flexible workforce. That’s not the direction Fain is taking the UAW.

“Maybe Ford doesn’t need to move factories to find the cheapest labor on Earth,” Fain said in response to Farley’s remarks. “Maybe it needs to recommit to American workers and find a CEO who’s interested in the future of this country’s auto industry.”


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