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Union warns Ohio workers that Ford plans to move new vehicle construction to Mexico

United Auto Workers (UAW) warned Ford employees in Ohio that the company plans to move the construction of a new vehicle to Mexico, according to a letter made public this week.

UAW Vice President Gerald Kariem addressed a letter to Ford workers in Avon Lake, Ohio, in which he accused the automaker of violating a contract agreement with the union with its plans to build a next-generation vehicle in Mexico instead of the Ohio Assembly Plant (OHAP).

The letter, sent with the union’s letterhead, cited a 2019 four-year contract deal in which Ford committed $900 million for the assembly plant in Avon Lake, including adding production for a next-generation product in 2023. 

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The UAW said the agreement would secure the assembly plant's “employment well into the foreseeable future” but that Ford “has decided it will not honor its promise.”

“Ford management expects us to just hang our heads and accept the decision,” Kariem wrote in the letter dated Friday. “But let me be clear, we are making a different choice.”

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

Kariem wrote that the union has made data requests for an explanation of the decision, but the automaker has only given “strategically limited information.”

“We are intensely exploring our options at this time,” he wrote in the letter that copied UAW President Rory Gamble and the union’s two top lawyers. 

In response to UAW’s letter, Ford plant manager Jason Moore released a letter to Avon Lake workers obtained by The Hill, noting that the 2019 agreement included a “reference to a $900 million investment and a new product for OHAP.”

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“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.

The letter continued saying that the company has invested more than $185 million into the Avon Lake plant and retained 100 jobs there since 2019.

Ford had announced in November that it intends to build another electric vehicle in Cuautitlan, Mexico, in addition to the Mustang Mach-E, Reuters reported. 

Kelli Felker, Ford global manufacturing and communications manager, declined to tell the Detroit Free Press whether Ford intends to keep its commitment to the Ohio plant, saying, "We are always looking at our options.” 

"Ford employs more hourly workers in the U.S. than any other automaker, assembles more vehicles in the U.S. than any other automaker, and Ford chooses to invest in America more than any other automaker," she said in a statement obtained by The Hill. 

 "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," the statement said. "We are invested in Ohio Assembly Plant and our dedicated workforce there."

— Updated 3/18/2021 10:05 a.m.