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At the age of 25, William Clay Ford Jr., the executive chair of Ford Motor Company, had his first encounter with labor negotiations. A union official demanded that he prove he was “made of the same stuff” as his great-grandfather, Henry Ford. Mr. Ford reflected on this experience in a recent interview about the ongoing labor negotiations at Ford.

The United Automobile Workers (UAW) union has initiated strikes at three Ford plants, as well as at General Motors and Stellantis (Chrysler’s parent company). The union’s new president, Shawn Fain, is seeking higher wages, better benefits, and job security. He has referred to the companies as “the enemy” and accused them of “corporate greed.”

In response to the strikes, Mr. Ford stated that nonunion automakers like Tesla, Toyota, and Honda were benefiting. Mr. Fain countered by saying that workers at those companies would eventually join the UAW.

In an interview, Mr. Ford advised his executives not to be affected by Mr. Fain’s words and to focus on reaching a deal. He also recounted his first difficult conversation with a union official in 1982, where he was questioned about his commitment to the company. Despite initial challenges, Mr. Ford eventually gained the union’s acceptance.

When asked about the current negotiations, Mr. Ford emphasized the importance of collaboration, stating that the real competition is not between the UAW and Ford but between UAW and other automakers like Toyota, Honda, Tesla, and Chinese automakers.

Regarding the economy, Mr. Ford expressed concern about inflation but noted that there are still strong employment numbers and stable sales. He also discussed the challenges facing the electric vehicle (EV) market, citing the politicization of EVs and their high prices. However, he believes that as prices decrease and the technology improves, EVs will become more desirable.

Addressing concerns about auto production moving to China, Mr. Ford stated that Ford is committed to electric vehicles and will continue pursuing their development despite political rhetoric. He expects prices to decrease as the technology advances.

In terms of Ford’s current operations, the ongoing strikes have caused disruptions and may impact the supply chain. Mr. Ford emphasized the importance of the manufacturing industry for national security and highlighted the industry’s crucial role during times of war.

In conclusion, Mr. Ford remains optimistic that a deal will be reached with the UAW. He believes that disagreements can be resolved and that Ford and the union will continue to work together toward a common goal.

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