UAW strike could affect thousands of Kentucky auto workers

UAW strike could affect thousands of Kentucky autoworkers
Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 5:54 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - With 10 days left before a looming UAW strike, the union and the big three U.S. automakers are far apart on a new contract agreement.

“I hope these shareholders can run an assembly line because those are going to be the only people left to build cars come Sept. 15,” UAW President Shawn Fain said during a recent negotiation update to his membership.

12,000 workers are part of the union at Ford’s two assembly plants threatening to strike.

However, Kentucky’s auto workforce has more than 100,000 workers.

A strike would cause a ripple effect for those workers too.

Autoworkers in Kentucky build cars and trucks but also make brakes, steering systems, and seats.

If the assembly plants stop work, the supporting factories will likely begin to shut down too.

“Ford has a chance to lead here, but sadly they are choosing the low road approach,” Fain said.

As contract talks remain far apart at Ford and broken at GM and Stellantis according to the UAW, a possible strike grows day by day. It’s not good news for Kentucky.

“Our auto sector is truly on fire, truly exciting to see all the opportunities and this is just the start,” Governor Andy Beshear said at an expansion announcement at Piston Automotive last year.

Politicians have touted the growth of the industry for years, and new factories were always the pride of economic development leaders.

“224 families are going to benefit from the location in River Ridge,” One Southern Indiana President Wendy Dant Chesser said in 2014. The group released a statement about the current potential strike as well.

“Southern Indiana is home to many automotive suppliers, and it is impossible to gauge the full impact a United Auto Workers (UAW) strike would have on our community,” noted Wendy Dant Chesser, President and CEO of One Southern Indiana. “We hope an agreement can be reached before the current UAW contract expires on September 14, ensuring the continuity of auto-related economic activities in our region.”

Kentucky has added 15,000 jobs in the automotive industry over a decade. The state has thousands of workers who make brakes, suspensions, and seat cushions.

“It means 450 Kentucky families are going to feel a lot more confident when they go to sleep at night,” Former Governor Steve Beshear said in 2012. “They can keep food on the table for their family and put a roof over their heads.”

Supply chains for Toyota should be fine since the plant is not unionized. Other suppliers may have to lay off workers as orders dry up at the Ford and GM assembly plants here if work stops.

“If it’s a full strike, and they can run some things with management, but they can’t run everything, then that has the ripple effect,” University of Louisville Professor Ariana Levinson said.

She believes the UAW will avoid a strike. But she said the threat of a nationwide strike helps pressure the automakers to sweeten their offers.

“It’s a lot more pressure if you don’t know who will be struck or who will negotiate the first contract,” Levinson said.

The UAW contracts at all three U-S automakers expire on Sept. 14.