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The UAW and Ford reach a tentative deal on a new contract to end auto strike

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There's been a major breakthrough in the big three auto strike. Now, that strike's been going on for nearly six weeks now. But last night, the United Auto Workers and Ford announced that they have reached a tentative labor agreement. Here's UAW President Shawn Fain.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SHAWN FAIN: For months, we've said record profits mean record contracts. And UAW family, our stand-up strike has delivered.

MARTIN: For more on this, we're joined now by NPR's Andrea Hsu. Andrea, good morning.

ANDREA HSU, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: So what do we know about how this deal came together - or this tentative deal, it still has to be voted on.

HSU: Yeah. Well, all week, it seemed like a deal with Ford was possible. Ford has had the best offer on the table for weeks. And this week, we saw the UAW expand the strike against Stellantis and General Motors but not against Ford. We had heard that negotiators were putting in long days at the bargaining table. And sure enough, just after 8:30 last night, Eastern time, came news of this deal.

MARTIN: What's in it?

HSU: Well, a lot, according to the UAW. Twenty-five percent wage increases over 4 1/2 years, the cost-of-living adjustments tied to inflation, improvements on retirement benefits, the right to strike over plant closures, which, you know, the UAW says is a first for them. And Michel, you heard Shawn Fain there say the strike delivered. To put that in some context, the union says the raises they got are more than Ford workers have received in the past 22 years combined.

MARTIN: Andrea, though, didn't Shawn Fain go in demanding 40% raises?

HSU: Yeah. He did. It was part of this package of what he called audacious demands. He said, look, the automakers are making record profits. It's time they made up for all the concessions the UAW has made over the past couple of decades, really, giving up things like the cost-of-living adjustments. Now, I have seen some mixed reaction to this deal on Facebook. People saying, you know, we didn't get this, we didn't get that, we didn't get a deal on Ford's future EV battery plants. But when I talked to Ford workers on the picket line earlier this month, you know, some told me they didn't expect to get everything that Shawn Fain initially called for. Here's Isabella Tibai who builds Broncos at Ford's Michigan assembly plant outside Detroit.

ISABELLA TIBAI: I never really expected the 40%, and a lot of people will ask me, like, why are you guys asking for 40%? I'm like, look, you know how negotiations go. You ask for too much, and you find yourself going back-and-forth, negotiating.

MARTIN: OK. She sounds very mature and wise. So this is still a tentative agreement. Tell us, what are the next steps?

HSU: Right. Well, on Sunday, the UAW will convene members of its leadership team, called the Ford Council, to review this deal. They'll vote on whether to send it to the 57,000 UAW members at Ford. And assuming that they do that, Michel, the workers then get to decide, do they like this deal or not? Do they think it's enough? You know, Shawn Fain has said over and over that the members are the highest authority in the union. And he said it again last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FAIN: We send this contract to you because we know it breaks records. We know it will change lives. But what happens next is up to you all.

HSU: And in the meantime, Michel, 20,000 Ford workers will go back to work. Ford says it's getting its plants up and running again.

MARTIN: Briefly - GM and Stellantis, what about them?

HSU: Well, the pressure is really on them now to come up with similar agreements. Their latest offers are actually not that far behind Ford, but until they have a deal, their workers remain on strike. So the fight continues.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Andrea Hsu. Andrea, thank you.

HSU: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michel Martin is co-host of Morning Edition, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Andrea Hsu is NPR's labor and workplace correspondent.
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