Possible UAW strike darkens labor picnic

Union members across Louisville bask in the late summer sun this Labor Day at the United Labor Picnic at Kentucky Kingdom.
Published: Sep. 4, 2023 at 5:19 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 4, 2023 at 6:35 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Union members across Louisville bask in the late summer sun this Labor Day at the United Labor Picnic at Kentucky Kingdom. But a day of relaxation may mask a growing sense of uneasiness for members of one of the larger unions, the United Auto Workers.

UAW workers at Ford face the growing possibility of a strike.

Their contract ends in ten days and many members have never been this close to a strike in their decades-long careers.

As a Kentucky Kingdom thrill ride spins its riders through the air, it may seem like a last gasp of fun for 12,000 Ford UAW workers here in Louisville.

“Everybody’s nervous, nobody wants to strike but we feel like it’s time to get stuff that we’ve given back,” UAW Ford worker Dave Runyon said.

He came to the labor picnic dressed to join his fellow union members at the pool. But he said at the plant, it’s his younger coworkers left without a shirt.

“Us legacy (workers) are the minority and the younger kids are doing the work on the line, I don’t work the line no more and them kids that work the line deserve the pay that we get,” Runyon said.

The UAW wants all the automakers to significantly boost pay, end two tiered wage structures, and shorten the work week.

“First time for our era of workforce,” UAW Local President Todd Dunn said.

He explained this is the closest its members have gotten to a strike over his 30 years. He says on the tenth the union will start getting info on strike pay and picket duty out to its members.

“If we go on strike, what to expect, we’ll man the gates, do our community service and get your strike authorization, your benefit check,” Dunn said.

A strike will have a major impact around Louisville. Other unions have promised not to cross the picket lines or load any Ford products on trucks and trains. It’s also a tricky topic for Democratic Governor Andy Beshear. On the one hand he cheerleads Ford’s new battery plants, but also tries to support union workers who want future employees of those plants to be organized.

“Everybody needs to come to a point where they’re not only content but can also be happy and excited about that next stage,” Beshear said.

UAW President Shawn Fain tossed a recent automaker counter offer into a trash can on a Facebook Live broadcast for his members.

The union has also filed unfair labor practice complaints against GM and Stellantis.