UAW blasts Ford for backing out of Ohio Assembly investment

Daniel Howes Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Detroit — A United Auto Workers vice president blasted Ford Motor Co. for reneging on a commitment to invest a full $900 million in its Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake and for moving production of a new electric vehicle in Mexico.

"Unfortunately, Ford Motor Company has decided it will not honor its promise to add a new product to OHAP and, instead, it intends to build the next-generation vehicle in Mexico," Gerald Kariem, also head of the union's Ford Department, wrote in a March 12 letter to UAW Local 2000.

"We 100% reject the company’s decision to put corporate greed and more potential profits over American jobs and the future of our members. We expect the company to honor its contractual commitments to this membership and when it fails to do so we will take action."

The letter comes as the Dearborn automaker continues a reassessment of its operations under CEO Jim Farley since he ascended to the top job last October and after an announcement a month later saying Ford would be building a second, still-unnamed electric vehicle in its Cuautitlan, Mexico, facility that also assembles the new Mustang Mach-E EV.

The sharp exchange also reflects comparatively high anxiety in northern Ohio surrounding the future of union-represented auto jobs in the northern tier of the state, Two years ago this month, rival General Motors Co. closed its sprawling Lordstown Assembly plant outside Youngstown, creating a new diaspora of union members to GM facilities across the Midwest.

In a statement, Ford said: "We remain committed to investing $6 billion in our U.S. plants and creating and retaining 8,500 jobs in America during this four-year UAW contract. Since 2019, we have invested more than $185 million and created and retained more than 100 jobs at Ohio Assembly Plant, including actions planned for this year."

And in a separate letter to employees on Monday, Ohio Assembly Plant Manager Jason Moore touted investments to expand production capacity there to build more Super Duty trucks. He emphasized that Ford "believes in" the Ohio Assembly workforce and that the company "affirmed that commitment with the investment and additional full-time positions."

In the 2019 UAW and Ford contract highlights, the union boasted about a $900 million investment coming to Ohio Assembly that included a new product in 2023. 

"While conditions upon which the 2019 Administrative Letter were based have changed, the company is investing in the plant and increasing production of Super Duty trucks at OHAP," Moore wrote in his letter to employees. "That is a key development as the F-series is America’s No. 1 selling truck and customer demand is strong."

Marick Masters, a labor and business professor at Wayne State University, said the union and Ford "will obviously need to sit down and clarify the situation and attempt to negotiate the future investment in this Ohio facility.  A critical variable in this discussion will be the extent to which the White House might intervene to protect U.S. jobs."

Former President Donald Trump previously slammed Ford for planning to build a manufacturing plant in Mexico. In a costly move, the automaker then canceled plans to spend $1.6 billion to build a new plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

Trump also slammed GM for its decision to close Lordstown, confirmed the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday. GM sold that plant to Lordstown Motors Corp., an electric-vehicle startup expected to start producing an electric truck for the commercial market by September of this year — though the initial production will not come close to the more than 400,000 Chevrolet Cruze compacts once built there annually. 

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Cleveland and persistent critic of GM's decision to close Lordstown, on Tuesday used a Senate Finance Committee hearing on tax policy to say Ford's decision "to turn its back on a community is just unacceptable.

"I know that kind of investment in an auto plant creates huge numbers of good paying union jobs — and good paying management jobs, too — and we want to continue it."

Staff writers Jordyn Grzelewski and Riley Beggin in Washington contributed.