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UPDATE: The UAW’s Heavy-Handedness: Union Threatens Ford With Strike, Walks Back Replacement Talk

[Update below the fold.]

Ford Motor Company has a dilemma on its hands. It is the only auto company of Detroit’s Big Three that is not government owned and, therefore, does not have the same safeguards against a United Auto Workers strike.

In 2009, the UAW, in exchange for being bailed out at GM and Chrysler agreed not to strike until 2015. However, at Ford, the UAW would not grant the same no-strike guarantee.  As a result, Ford’s success at keeping the government out of its boardroom put Ford at a disadvantage in its negotiations, giving the UAW the upper hand by being able to shut Ford down with a strike.

At present, a majority of UAW members at Ford have rejected the tentative Ford-UAW contract negotiated earlier this month. This makes the possibility of a UAW strike at Ford more probable.

On Wednesday, according to BusinessWeek, the UAW made the strike threat more formal on its Facebook page–threatening both the Company with a strike, as well as its own members with the possibility of being locked out or replaced.

The United Auto Workers said in a Facebook post that it will seek a strike if members vote against a tentative agreement with Ford Motor Co. and that union leaders expect the automaker would seek replacement workers.

The post today from the UAW Ford Department cites UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, the union’s lead negotiator with the automaker, informing workers a strike would follow a rejection of the contract. Workers at a Ford factory in Wayne, Michigan, rejected the contract in a ratification vote this week.

“Vice President Settles has advised the membership during informational meetings that if the agreement is not ratified, he will ask the International Executive Board to authorize a strike,” the UAW Ford Department post said. “If so, he will then give 72 hour notice to the company that we intend to strike.”

[snip]

The post also said the automaker may lock out UAW- represented employees or use replacement workers to keep factories running.

“The company is not obligated to continue bargaining because their position is that they negotiated in good faith and presented an agreement which is more than competitive,” the UAW Ford Department post said. “If we strike, they will use whatever resources necessary to continue operating their plants including the use of scab labor.” [Emphasis added.]

To be clear, the above statement is from the UAW directed toward its members, not Ford.

While Ford does have the legal option to lock out the UAW, as well as to replace UAW strikers (permanently) if the UAW engages in an economic strike, it has given no public indication that it intends to exercise either of those options.

The absence of a public position on the issue makes one wonder if, in fact, the UAW is using the lockout/replacement threat against its own members and, if so, why?

The UAW’s use of the lockout/replacement threat against its own membership—whether based in reality or not—in an apparent attempt to goad members into accepting a contract is likely to fan the flames of member discontent, causing more members to reject (rather than accept) the tentative contract.

If the contract is rejected and the UAW strikes Ford in some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, there are several scenarios that could develop: 1) a strike may put Ford into the position of either having to go back to the bargaining table and agreeing to a contract that puts it at a competitive disadvantage with GM and Chrysler; 2) Ford may be forced into the position of having to replace strikers in order to survive; or 3) a UAW strike could force Ford to shut down to the extent that, like the other two government-owned auto companies, it must run to Washington for a bailout.

Given the socialist proclivities of the UAW’s president, Bob King, it is not beyond the realm of possibilities that King would want Ford to fall under the umbrella of a government takeover.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome at Ford, the UAW’s motives in threatening both the company and its members is rather suspicious.

UPDATE: UAW Recants Comment on Ford Hiring Strike Breakers If Pact Fails

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.”

Ford Motor Company has a dilemma on its hands. It is the only auto company of Detroit’s Big Three that is not government owned and, therefore, does not have the same safeguards against a United Auto Workers strike.

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“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776

Cross-posted on LaborUnionReport.com

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