Ford Motor said it had temporarily laid off 600 non-striking workers at its assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, only hours after other employees at the facility had walked off the job early Friday as part of theagainst the Big Three automakers.
The labor union launched targeted work stoppages at the facility, along with a General Motors factory in Wentzville, Missouri, and a Stellantis plant in Toledo, Ohio, after failing to reachwith the automakers by a Thursday night deadline.
Ford said in a statement that the 600 employees it laid off are tied to the work stoppage at the Wayne facility.
“This layoff is a consequence of the strike at Michigan Assembly Plant’s final assembly and paint departments, because the components built by these 600 employees use materials that must be e-coated for protection,” Ford said in a statement Friday. “E-coating is completed in the paint department, which is on strike.”
Wayne, Michigan, with a population of roughly 17,000, is a suburb about 45 minutes west of Detroit consisting mainly of blue-collar and middle-class families. The Ford plant employs about 3,300 workers, most of whom make Bronco SUVs and Ranger pickup trucks.
UAW President Shawn Fain visited the Wayne plant Friday and said the strike will continue until Ford, GM and Stellantis (which owns Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and RAM, along with foreign brands such as Peugeot and Open) lift worker wages and improve job security.
The Wayne plant feels like two separate worlds, said Pete Gruich, 56, who has worked there for 25 years.
The plant is divided into a body shop on one side and an assembly line on the other. The body shop side is a slower-paced environment where the full-body paint process happens, Gruich said. The final assembly side has “a hectic pace and there’s no down time,” he told CBS MoneyWatch.
“When somebody takes a day off at final (assembly), it takes two people to do that job, sometimes three, because the jobs are so overloaded,” he said.
Gruich said there’s also division among the employees, between those who make the higher-tier wages and the ones who earn less. That’s because managers tell lower-tier employees that they’ll move them to the upper tier wages once a top-tier worker has retired, but that rarely happens, Gruich said.
Tensions were high at the plant for weeks leading up to the strike, Gruich said. On Thursday night, employees who are all members of UAW’s Local 900 got very little work done and were eager to see how labor negotiations would play out, he said.
“We basically just sat the whole night until 10 when Fain decided to strike half of our plant,” he said.
Gruich said, soon after Fain chose their union to strike, managers allowed employees to leave their work stations.
“We were held in the cafeteria until midnight (and) then they allowed us to go out,” he said. “Nobody was allowed to go back on the floor at that point.”
Once outside, the chants began, Gruich said. Younger workers were more energetic and animated while people with more seniority took in the scene in silence, he said.
Fain hasn’t said why UAW leadership chose the Wayne plant as one of the first three. Gruich said he thinks it’s because workers at the Wayne facility also make parts of seven other plants in the Midwest — plants that produce the Ford Escape, F-250, F-350 and dashboards for the F-150. The parts manufacturing side of Wayne is still operating but the union could ask those workers to walk out as well, Gruich said.
“After like a week or two of Ford not negotiating, they’ll end up shutting down the rest of the plant,” he said. “And that will in turn shut down six or seven other plants.”