Bloomberg News

UAW Recants on Ford Hiring Strike Breakers If Pact Fails

October 13, 2011

(Updates with closing share price in 10th paragraph.)

Oct. 13 (Bloomberg) -- The United Auto Workers recanted a Facebook Post it made yesterday saying Ford Motor Co. will hire replacement workers if union members reject a proposed four-year contract.

The UAW didn’t take back comments attributed to Vice President Jimmy Settles, the union’s lead Ford negotiator, that a strike would be called if workers reject the tentative agreement reached Oct. 4 with Ford. Workers at Ford factories in Chicago and Wayne, Michigan, have voted against the deal this week. The ratification vote concludes Oct. 18.

“To clarify an earlier post: Vice President Settles has never said that Ford will hire scab laborers,” the UAW Ford Department said in a post late yesterday. “There was a post that erroneously said that earlier.”

In response to questions about its clarification, the UAW Ford Department said: “We absolutely can go on strike.” The union’s earlier post said Settles would call for a strike if the contract is rejected and give Ford 72 hours notice of a walkout. The UAW has not had a national strike at Ford since 1976.

“A post on the UAW Ford Department Facebook page yesterday related to a possible strike at Ford was not authorized by me,” Settles said today in an e-mail. “I remain optimistic that the tentative agreement will pass and I am not focused on a strike at this point. Some local unions are making routine strike preparations which are always done during the negotiation process.”

Chicago, Michigan Votes

Workers at Ford’s Chicago assembly plant, which makes the Taurus and Explorer, yesterday voted 77 percent against the proposed contract, according to Gary Walkowicz, a union official at UAW Local 600 in Dearborn, Michigan. Workers at the Wayne, Michigan, plant, which makes the Focus small car, rejected the accord with a 51.1 percent “no” vote this week.

Production workers at a Ford axle plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, approved the agreement yesterday with 66 percent of the votes, said Brian Pannebecker, a worker at the factory. Skilled trades workers at the plant endorsed the deal with 64.5 percent, he said.

Ford Optimistic

Karen Hampton, a Ford spokeswoman, said the company remains confident the contract will be approved by its 41,000 UAW- represented workers.

“The agreement is fair to our employees and improves Ford’s competitiveness in the U.S.,” she said in an e-mail today. “We remain optimistic that the tentative agreement will be approved.”

Ford fell 0.4 percent to $11.34 at the close in New York.

In 2009, Ford workers rejected a deal endorsed by the UAW leadership that would have banned strikes until 2015 and frozen the pay of new workers for six years.

The union’s Facebook posts reinforce the leadership’s message that the tentative agreement is the best they could get, said Harley Shaiken, a labor professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

“This is a way to make the membership understand that this is the best that can be negotiated at the bargaining table,” Shaiken said. “And if it’s not ratified, they’ll have to walk out.”

--Editors: Bill Koenig, Jamie Butters

To contact the reporter on this story: Keith Naughton in Souhfield, Michigan at knaughton3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net


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