With negotiators from the Detroit 3 and the UAW about to put in some late nights around the bargaining table in the next few months, they probably won’t be getting their fourth meals from Taco Bell.
As General Motors and Ford Motor Co. run for the border, investing billions of dollars and creating thousands of jobs in Mexican plants, union leaders are fuming.
“We need jobs in the United States, and we’re the ones buying those vehicles that they’re shipping in from Mexico,” UAW President Dennis Williams said today at a ceremony to open talks with Ford. “So yeah, there’s issues.”
As a story by my colleague Neal Boudette explained a few weeks ago, Mexico is poised to play a major role in this year’s talks. GM and Ford are spending a combined $7.5 billion (121 billion pesos) to expand operations in Mexico over the next few years. Williams shared his concerns about free-trade agreements during a meeting last week with Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and President Barack Obama.
Ford stoked the UAW’s anger earlier this month by announcing that it would, in 2018, move production of two small cars, the Focus and C-Max, out of a Michigan plant where they’ve been built since 2009. Ford says it’s still evaluating where to build them instead, but they’re virtually certain to leave the U.S. and sources tell me Mexico is the likely destination.
“Am I happy about it? No,” Williams said today. “I want everything built in the United States of America, including tennis shoes.”
President Trump won’t be pleased either. Trump recently threatened to impose a 35 percent tax on vehicles Ford imports from Mexico, ignoring the fact that such a specifically targeted penalty would “almost certainly not be legal,” as The Detroit News pointed out.
“They are going to take away thousands of jobs,” Trump said last month, when he launched his candidacy for the White House. “It's very bad for us.”
The UAW probably never thought it would find itself on the same side of an issue as Donald Trump.
As the union fights to keep jobs in the U.S., Ford officials will be warning of all the bad things that can happen again if the company isn’t competitive. At today’s event, Executive Chairman Bill Ford thanked UAW members for their sacrifices during “the dark days of ’07, ’08, ’09,” while also reminding them how close the automaker came to collapsing.
“We pulled together to pull the company back from the brink of extinction,” Ford said.
The UAW, on the other hand, pointed to the billions of dollars in profits that have piled up since the recession. Ford will announce second-quarter earnings next week, with CEO Mark Fields promising that 2015 will turn out to be a “breakthrough year” for Ford financially.
“Ford Motor Co. has done very well and we’re so happy to be here under those conditions,” Williams said today. “And we’ll be reminding them of that daily.”