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Ford temporarily lays off hundreds of workers at Michigan plant where UAW is on strike

Ford Motor said it had temporarily laid off 600 non-striking workers at its assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, just hours after other employees at the facility walked off the job early Friday as part of the protest. Historic United Auto Workers strike against the big three car manufacturers.

The union launched targeted work stoppages at the plant, along with a General Motors factory in Wentzville, Missouri, and a Stellantis plant in Toledo, Ohio, after failing to reach a new labor agreement with automakers ahead of the Thursday night deadline.

Ford said in a statement that the layoffs at Wayne are linked to the UAW work stoppage, the first time in the union’s history that it has launched strikes simultaneously at all three automakers.

“This layoff is a consequence of the strike in the final assembly and paint departments at the Michigan Assembly Plant, because the components built by these 600 employees use materials that must be electronically coated for protection,” Ford said in a statement on Friday. “In the painting department, which is on strike, the e-coating has been completed.”

Wayne, Michigan, with a population of approximately 17,000 inhabitants, it is a suburb about 45 minutes west of Detroit and made up mainly of working-class and middle-class families. The Ford plant employs about 3,300 workers, most of whom make Bronco SUVs and Ranger trucks.

UAW President Shawn Fain visited the Wayne plant on Friday and said the strike will continue until Ford, GM and Stellantis (owners of Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and RAM, along with foreign brands such as Peugeot and Open) step up. workers’ salaries and improve job security.

UAW union members picket outside the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, on September 15, 2023.


Pete Gruich, 56, who has worked at the Wayne factory for 25 years, said working on the assembly line is “hectic and there is no downtime.”

“When someone takes a day off at the final assembly, it takes two people to do that job, sometimes three, because the jobs are so overloaded,” he added.

Gruich said there is a divide among employees, between those who earn higher salaries and those who earn less. That’s because managers tell lower-level employees that they will be moved to the higher level once a higher-paid worker has retired, but that rarely happens, he said.

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Tensions were high at the plant in the weeks leading up to the strike, Gruich said. On Thursday night, employees represented by UAW Local 900 did little work and were anxious to see how labor negotiations would play out, he said.

“We basically sat up all night until 10 p.m., when Fain decided to shut down half of our plant,” he said.

Gruich said that shortly after Fain chose his union to strike, managers allowed employees to walk away from their jobs.

“We were held in the cafeteria until midnight (and) then they allowed us to leave,” he said. “No one was allowed back on the court at that time.”

Pete Gruich has been an employee of Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, for 25 years. He poses for a photo with UAW President Shawn Fain after Local 900 launched a strike against Detroit’s Big Three automakers on Friday, September 15, 2023.

Pete Gruich

Once outside, chants of support for the strike began, Gruich said, noting that younger workers were generally more animated, while older workers watched the scene in silence.

Fain has not said why UAW leaders chose the Wayne plant to strike. Gruich said he believes it’s because workers at the facility also make parts for seven other plants in the Midwest that produce the Ford Escape, F-250 and F-350 vehicles, as well as instrument panels for the F-350. 150. The parts manufacturing part of Wayne is still operational, but the union could ask those workers to leave as well, Gruich said.

“After a week or two of Ford not negotiating, they will end up closing the rest of the plant,” he predicted. “And that, in turn, will close another six or seven plants.”

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