Henry Ford’s Great-Grandson Bill Ford Speaks Out On UAW Strike For the First Time

"This is deeply personal to me...I always take the long view," said Bill Ford, the chairman of Ford since 1999.

Ford chairman Bill Ford
Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford, is seen as he visits the electric car production line at the Ford automobile factory on June 12, 2023 in Cologne, Germany. Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

A full month into the unprecedented United Auto Workers (UAW) strike against Detroit’s “Big Three” carmakers—Ford, General Motors and Chrysler maker Stellantis—Ford chairman Bill Ford, the great-grandson of the company’s founder Henry Ford, spoke out on the conflict for the first time ever and pleaded with union members to end the strike.

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At a live-streamed news conference yesterday (Oct. 16) at Ford’s Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Mich., Bill Ford called on the union to reach a tentative deal and, in a rare move, took aim at Ford’s non-union competitors, including Toyota, Honda and Tesla (TSLA).

“This should not be Ford versus the UAW—it should be Ford and the UAW versus Toyota, Honda, Tesla and all the Chinese companies that want to enter our home market,” the 66-year-old executive told reporters at the event. “Toyota, Honda, Tesla and the others are loving this strike because they know the longer it goes on, the better it is for them. They will win, and all of us will lose.”

Bill Ford called himself “the most pro-union leader” in the auto industry, noting that Ford employs more UAW employees than any carmaker and is the only employer that added union jobs over the last 15 years on his watch. “These are choices we’ve made, and it’s added costs to our business in an industry that is extraordinarily competitive,” he said.

Ford has 57,000 UAW workers, while GM employs 46,000 and Stellantis employs 43,000, the Associated Press reported. More than 16,600 of Ford’s union workers are currently on strike, and roughly an additional 2,500 have been laid off as a result of work stoppage, according to CNBC.

At the center of the negotiation, the union is demanding wage increases of about 40 percent, pointing to automakers’ rising profits. (Ford, GM and Stellantis posted a combined profit of $21 billion in the first half of 2023.) Ford’s latest proposal included wage increases of 23 percent to 26 percent, depending on classification, in addition to other benefits such as cost-of-living adjustments and retention of platinum health care plans.

Ford CEO Jim Farley lamented last month that “it is grossly irresponsible” for UAW “to escalate these strikes and hurt thousands of families” after Ford had offered those concessions.

“This is deeply personal to me.”

Bill Ford is the fourth member in the Ford family to run the 120-year-old automaker. He joined the company in 1979 after graduating from Princeton University. In preparation for his future executive role, Bill Ford held positions in various departments, from product development to finance. At one point, he was the head of Ford’s heavy truck operations.

Bill Ford joined the company’s board in 1988 at age 30 and has been its chairman since 1999.

“This is deeply personal to me…I always take the long view,” he said at yesterday’s news conference. “I’m working for a bright future, not just for my children and grandchildren but for the hundreds of thousands [who count on Ford].”

Bill Ford, who said he had never spoken publicly on the negotiations, said on Oct. 13 that employees on strike had on average lost about $4,000 in pretax income in the past month.

UAW President Shawn Fain countered Bill Ford’s argument about benefiting non-union competitors. “It’s not the UAW and Ford against foreign automakers. It’s autoworkers everywhere against corporate greed,” Fain said in a statement yesterday. “If Ford wants to be the all-American auto company, they can pay all-American wages and benefits. Workers at Tesla, Toyota, Honda, and others are not the enemy—they’re the UAW members of the future.”

Ford is set to report third-quarter earnings on Oct. 26.

Henry Ford’s Great-Grandson Bill Ford Speaks Out On UAW Strike For the First Time