Home Acura NSX Bill Ford And The UAW’s Shawn Fain Are Speaking Two Different Languages

Bill Ford And The UAW’s Shawn Fain Are Speaking Two Different Languages

Bill Ford And The UAW’s Shawn Fain Are Speaking Two Different Languages


This is where Ford and Fain are speaking two different languages. Ford is saying everything that exemplified cooperation in a pre-2007 world. Fain is speaking from the reality of a 2023 world and beyond.

Ford pointed out that only four generations of his family have led the auto company since its founding in 1903. “It’s personal for me,” he said on Monday.

It is personal for Fain, too, in a different way. He frequently shows off his grandfather’s pay stub as proof of his own deep automotive roots, but his own stature is significant, too.

Fain is the first directly elected U.A.W. leader in the union’s history. He is also the first elected leader to succeed the U.A.W. presidents and other officials who went to prison. As such, he is tasked with a monumental clean-up.

Not only is Fain trying to restore years of concessions. He is trying to prove that the union can again lead the union movement without anyone questioning his integrity. There was not a peep of scandal about legendary U.A.W. presidents such as Walter Reuther, Leonard Woodcock and Doug Fraser, among others.

But the labor-management cooperation that kicked off at Ford in 1982 subsequently mushroomed out of control. Union presidents began playing golf with company leaders, attending black-tie events and then, defrauding joint training funds.

The scandal blew up during the pandemic at Fiat Chrysler, now called Stellanis, resulting in jail terms and plea agreements between the Justice Department and more than 17 U.A.W. defendants. It also resulted in a federal monitor of the union whose term will run another five years.

Where Ford talks about a partnership, Fain hears what led to irresistible temptation for his predecessors and colleagues.

There is no doubt that Bill Ford is sincere. “Let’s come together, and reach an agreement, so we can take the fight to the real competition and build a great company for years to come,” he said Monday.

It is simply extraordinary to listen to him and other company executives during the strike. In previous times, officials at the automakers went absolutely silent during negotiations and walkouts.

In fact, so did union leaders, save for occasional appearances to rally their troops. So, we’re in a unique situation where the union and Ford are regularly speaking out. Yet, neither one of them are comprehending what the other is saying. Until they do, an end will not come quickly.

[This piece was republished with permission from Micki’s excellent Substack Intersection: Everything That Moves, which you can subscribe to here.]

Photo Illustration: UAW



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