DEARBORN - The atmosphere was positive Friday as leaders from Ford and the UAW gathered at the Ford Rouge Visitor Center Legacy Gallery for the ceremonial handshake that marks the start of 2011 UAW-Ford Collective Bargaining.
Leaders who spoke at the event acknowledged the importance of the mutual trust and respect that has defined the relationship between Ford and the UAW over the years.
“One of the things that I really appreciate about Ford Motor Company, about Bill Ford and the Ford family is they’ve always cared about the workforce,” said UAW President Bob King. “Ford – when they’re healthy enough to do it – has reinvested in their workforce because they believe in their workforce.”
King went on to praise Ford for participating in talks in Washington that led to the announcement Friday of a new fuel economy standard of 54.5 mpg from 2017 to 2025.
“I appreciate the role you (Ford) played in that, and I think in these negotiations we have the opportunity to show how labor and management can really work together for creative problem-solving,” he said.
Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford began his remarks by thanking UAW members for their support of the company during recent difficult times.
“You guys were magnificent and together we helped Ford weather a downturn the likes of which I’ve never seen in my lifetime. It was really a true case of partnership,” he said. “It took a lot of tough actions that none of us wanted to do, but together we pulled the company through and made it stronger.”
Ford went on to describe what has been most meaningful to him throughout the 30 years that he has been a part of the Ford-UAW negotiations.
“What I cherish most is all the relationships I have with the men and women in our plants and with the leadership of the UAW. That means more to me than anything else,” he said. “We’ve always negotiated with trust, with integrity, with honesty and this time will be no different.”
Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally emphasized the importance of what Ford and the UAW have already accomplished together over the last five years.
“Not only have we taken the actions to survive and done that without taking precious taxpayer money, but we have actually set the foundation for this great company to now profitably grow,” he said.
Jimmy Settles, UAW vice president and director, National Ford Department, pointed out another important benefit that has come from Ford and the UAW working together.
“We have raised more money – both hourly and salaried workers – for charities than any other industry in this world,” he said.
According to John Fleming, executive vice president, Ford Global Manufacturing and Labor Affairs, the 70-year history that Ford and the UAW share is vital moving forward into negotiations.
“Our relationship is built on trust. It’s built on honesty, and it’s built on transparency, and that is absolutely critical to complex negotiations,” he said.
Fleming – who assumed leadership of Global Manufacturing and Labor Affairs a year ago – says he’s looking forward to the contract talks with great optimism.
“The thing that I’ve seen since I got here is there’s a great trust, a great respect and a great example of working together between Ford and the UAW to really help move us forward,” he said. “It will be tough of course, but we’re really looking forward to the opportunity of coming through this and showing everybody what we can do together.”