Why UAW hit Ford with surprise strike at key truck plant in Kentucky

"You just cost yourself Kentucky truck plant."

That's what the UAW president told Ford negotiators after the automaker didn't bring a contract proposal with additional wage increases. Shawn Fain said the surprise strike at Ford's largest plant and one of its most profitable was part of the UAW's next phase in its contract negotiations.

Fain didn't call on an expanded strike Friday during his weekly stream to workers. But he did put the Detroit 3 on notice that strikes would no longer come on Fridays like they have the past four weeks. Instead, "we're not waiting until Fridays anymore. We're not sticking to one pattern or one system of giving these companies an extra hour or an extra day."

"Taking out Kentucky truck sent a very clear message to Ford, but to GM and Stellantis as well. Don't you dare slow-walk us or low ball us," Fain said.

The shift in strategy comes after Fain said automakers were falling into the rhythm of waiting until the last minute to negotiate progress in a contract. The trigger for that change happened Wednesday after Fain said Ford "owed" the UAW a new offer with additional wage increases.

Instead, what was offered was the same economic proposal as two weeks ago, Fain said. It was delivered over a virtual meeting.


UAW strike update: Union changes approach to adding members to picket lines

UAW President Shawn Fain will no longer wait until Friday to add more union members to the strike, he announced during an update.

Fain and the union leadership then traveled to the Ford headquarters in Dearborn to meet with leadership.

"It was not a long meeting. They tried to give us the same offer they did two weeks ago, and not a dollar more," Fain said. "So at that point I said, ‘If that’s all you have for us, our members' lives and my handshake are worth more than that."

MORE: 100,000 impacted, supply chain rankled after UAW hits Ford's Kentucky plant

After that, leadership from the union contacted the local chapter's president who then called on workers to begin picketing. 

In total, 8,700 workers walked off the line, one of the largest single-plant walk-offs during this strike cycle. It's also significant due to the plant's role within Ford's supply chain. According to executives at the automaker, a new vehicle rolls off the line every 37 seconds. 

The plant assembles some of Ford's most popular models, including its Super Duty F-150 pickup truck and the Lincoln Navigator. In total, the plant generates $25 billion. 

Ford executives said they were surprised by the move and said they had pretty much hit their limit on money it could offer for wage increases.