By Keith Naughton and Gabrielle Coppola
Ford Motor Co. said Thursday it raised the pay of 8,000 US hourly workers represented by the United Auto Workers union just a week before its union contract expires.
The raises, negotiated in the 2019 contract with the UAW, lift the pay of the workers by $4.33 an hour, or $9,000 a year, the automaker said in a statement. The move accelerates how quickly the workers reach the top pay rate of about $32 an hour, reducing the time from eight years to as fast as four years, Ford said.
Ford’s effort to highlight raises it granted four years ago shows the automaker is working to build support among workers and the public as it seeks to reach a deal without a walkout.
“This is an effort to say that Ford is generally interested in reaching an agreement and would like to find a path to avoid a strike,” Marick Masters, a business professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, said in an interview. “They’re saying, ‘Look, we want to get this done, we want people at a higher rate and we’re willing to pay you more.’”
In its statement, Ford’s vice president, of manufacturing, Bryce Currie, said the raises “are an example of Ford’s commitment to improving the lives of our hourly workforce.”
“The negotiating teams nicknamed this deal ‘23 Jump Street’ because in 2023 a significant number of UAW-Ford team members would see a jump in pay,” he said. “And we are offering further improvements in the next contract.”
The UAW did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Ford’s move.
The UAW is a seeking a 46% wage increase in the current round of bargaining and rejected Ford’s initial counter proposal, which offered a 15% raise, including bonuses. The current four-year contract for Ford’s 57,000 US hourly workers expires on Sept. 14.
UAW President Shawn Fain has threatened a walkout of nearly 150,000 hourly workers at Ford, General Motors Co. and Stellantis NV if a pact isn’t reached by the deadline.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer expressed concern about a potential strike and said she is talking to both sides to try to head off a walkout.
“We are talking regularly with all the parties to try to keep them at the table and avert a strike,” Whitmer said in an interview in Tokyo, where she is on a trade mission. “There are different conversations that we’re having with each to see if there are things that the state can do, but it’s not clear that there are at this juncture.”
(Updates with analyst and Whitmer comments beginning in the third paragraph.)
–With assistance from Nicholas Takahashi.