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Ford, GM CEOs lash out at UAW president as union calls more strikes

Workers at the General Motors Delta Township Assembly plant went on strike at noon on the 15th day of the UAW strike against the Detroit Three automakers.
George Weykamp
Michigan Radio
Workers at the General Motors Delta Township Assembly plant went on strike at noon on the 15th day of the UAW strike against the Detroit Three automakers.

The CEOs of Ford and General Motors escalated their rhetoric against the United Auto Workers as the union struck another facility at each of the two companies Friday.

The new targets are GM's Lansing Delta Township Assembly Plant, and Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant. Both plants make profitable SUVs.

The UAW did not add to the strike against Stellantis, saying the automaker had made serious progress in contract talks.

GM and Ford officials criticized the union for expanding the strike. In a statement attributed to GM CEO Mary Barra, the company made the criticism personal.

"It is clear Shawn Fain wants to make history for himself," Barra said of the UAW president, "but it can’t be to the detriment of our represented team members and the industry."

"UAW leadership continues to expand the strike while upping the rhetoric and the theatrics," said Barra. "It’s clear that there is no real intent to get to an agreement."

Barra said the company had offered "a historic contract with record wage increases, record job security and world-class healthcare."

Ford Motor Company CEO Jim Farley was also pointed in his remarks during a media call as workers at the company's Chicago Assembly plant walked off the job.

He accused the union of "predetermining" a strike, and criticized UAW President Shawn Fain for appearing frequently on major tv programs, saying he was on tv "more than Jake from State Farm."

And he said an extended strike threatens the welfare of tens of thousands of people who work at auto suppliers. Farley said Ford had done more than its Detroit rivals to keep production of vehicles, and union jobs, in the U.S.

"We have pretty much lost production in our country for small cars," he said. "It's gone forever. A bad deal would threaten midsize and much larger vehicles like Escape and Explorer."

Farley also said the company was close on many issues with the union, but the UAW was holding an agreement "hostage over battery plants."

The union hopes to unionize future electric vehicle battery plants in the U.S. and gain wages for workers comparable to those at traditional auto plants.

"We are open to work with the union on a fair deal for battery plants but these are multi-billion dollar investments and the future of our industry is in the balance and they have to make good business sense," Farley said.

A union source said negotiating on wages is called bargaining, not hostage-taking. And the source said the union was far apart on many other issues in addition to EV battery plants.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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