Home » Ford Is ‘Secretly’ Training White-Collar Employees For Warehouse Work If The UAW Strikes

Ford Is ‘Secretly’ Training White-Collar Employees For Warehouse Work If The UAW Strikes

New Project 9.14.25 Am
ADVERTISEMENT

Who is going to work at Ford Motor Company’s parts warehouses if the United Auto Workers union goes on strike? If you are currently reading this post in an office in Dearborn on your Ford-issued laptop, which you secretly use to talk shit about Chevrolet in The Autopian’s comments, I have exciting news: you are!

Welcome to Friday, Autopians. The majority of the crew is still at Pebble Beach, sipping champagne and stuffing hors d’oeuvres into their blazer pockets while hearing about how the average Infiniti owner is on an upward arc.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

I, however, am here and will deliver unto you the news. We have the latest on the UAW’s ongoing negotiations, plus some EV-related stories out of China and New York City. Let’s hit it.

Ford May Turn To White-Collar Employees To Make The Cars If The UAW Strikes

Flat Rock Assembly Plant
Photo: Ford

The UAW’s clearly not messing around when it comes to its various labor demands with the Big Three automakers. Those include wage increases, guarantees for jobs in the electric future and ending Great Recession-era concessions around pensions and more. One analyst we cited earlier this week put the strike odds at 50-50, but I think they’re higher than that.

If a strike happens, Ford’s got a plan to avoid the interruption of parts to car dealers, the Detroit Free Press reports: train up engineers and other white-collar salaried workers to fill in by driving forklifts and doing other tasks usually assigned to blue-collar workers.

ADVERTISEMENT

Over the past month, Ford has held meetings with salaried workers, including engineers, to explain that the company wants to protect the flow of parts to car dealers in support of customers. This means Ford is planning to take actions that include sending white-collar workers into parts warehouses to run forklifts, according to meeting attendees.

If operations are disrupted and factory production is shut down, Ford is planning to deploy salaried workers to 20 sites in 15 states with Ford parts depots.

The automaker asked salaried workers to complete online surveys to rank their top three preferred sites in California, Oregon, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin, based on an audio recording made by a person attending one of the meetings and additional documentation obtained by the Free Press.

“We are working hard to reach a new deal. But, like we do for any scenario where customer service could be interrupted, we need to plan for the possibility of a UAW strike. Our customers and dealers are counting on us to ship parts so we can keep Ford vehicles on the road,” a Ford manager said on the recording, who also told those in attendance that a script had been provided by labor affairs.

Parts shortages could be a particularly painful aspect of a strike, given how hard-hit that side of things has been hit by the pandemic. And the automakers need to stockpile parts if a strike goes on for a while. Ford didn’t want this tactic to become public knowledge because it’s not a great look:

Salaried workers who attended confidential meetings were told not to discuss the plans with any colleagues or family members. Ford told its employees that they would have to tell family and friends that they were traveling on business and not disclose any other detail.

“You’re sworn to secrecy,” salaried workers were told. “We’re aiming to keep you close to home,” the Ford manager told salaried workers. “You will still have the opportunity to identify your preference … in case you have the interest to travel elsewhere during this time. These preferences will be accommodated wherever possible.”

Clearly, that didn’t work, seeing as how it’s in the Detroit Free Press and all. As that story notes, two years ago a salaried worker filling in for a factory worker crashed a tractor during the John Deere strike, and that company also allegedly sought to bury accident reports from the time.

Maybe Ford’s employees don’t want to cross a picket line; maybe they just don’t want to be sent to a parts warehouse in Florida, or something. But this was clearly not a popular move with everyone.

Meanwhile, according to the Detroit News, the newly militant UAW under President Shawn Fain has a vastly more direct tactic than we’ve seen before: publicly calling out elected officials, including typical allies like President Joe Biden, to muster support instead of working behind the scenes. Emphasis mine below:

Fain has held multiple meetings on Capitol Hill to rally support from lawmakers, even as he publicly criticizes the lack of protections in the Inflation Reduction Act, a bill many Democrats consider their marquee accomplishment.

[…] Some Democrats say the shift in tone and approach initially came as a surprise to the White House. “I would say they were not necessarily anticipating that kind of hardball,” said Rep. Hillary Scholten, D-Grand Rapids. “Obviously, I don’t work in the White House, I don’t have a direct channel. But I know it caught a number of us by surprise, and I heard that the White House was like, ‘What is happening here?’”

Public rebuke from a key constituency is a challenge to the White House in its own right. But a strike across all three Detroit automakers (which many experts predict is possible, if not likely, come September) could have sweeping effects for the United States economy and, by extension, Biden’s reelection campaign.

A UAW strike across all three automakers (which is the likely scenario if a strike happens, instead of against just one) could cost the U.S. economy $5 billion if it lasts even 10 days, according to one report. So, yeah, Biden has a very fine line to walk here.

ADVERTISEMENT

Monterey Car Week Goes Electric

Acura Performance Electric Visio

Let’s go a bit less heavy for a moment, shall we? I personally wonder about the relevance of fancy events like Monterey Car Week as this industry increasingly becomes driven by batteries and software. But a few brands are using it as a reason to show off their top-shelf electric stuff to an affluent audience.

Tech website Inverse has a roundup of some notable examples, including the Acura ZDX we saw yesterday, a special-edition Kia EV6 and some other entries from Leuxs and Pininfarina. And InsideEVs highlights this other EV sports car from Acura that looks an awful lot like an NSX:

03 Acura Electric Vision Design Study 02 64de7393a9a15

This is the Electric Vision Design Study, and it bears a striking resemblance to the now-discontinued NSX sports car. Sculpted alongside the ZDX at the Acura Design Studio in Los Angeles, the front is equipped with slim vertical headlights that nearly mimic the look of Acura’s IMSA Prototype racer. There’s a corresponding light bar that extends across the slightly pointed nose as well, and an illuminated Acura badge on the hood – all in a fluorescent green color.

“Our Acura design team in Los Angeles is dreaming up the future of Acura Precision Crafted Performance in the EV era,” notes Dave Marek, Acura’s executive creative director. “This latest expression of an all-electric high-performance model is inspiring everyone in our design studio to push the boundaries ad we wanted to share the fun with our Acura fans.”

Acura says that the Electric Vision Design Study provides a sneak peek at a potential sporty EV. But the company isn’t confirming whether or not this concept will reach production, nor does the Electric Vision Design Study have any real power or performance figures to report.

I wish we could see more than the dark silhouette with neon streaks, but I’m glad Acura’s finding ways to (maybe) keep the supercar alive in the future.

ADVERTISEMENT

Inside China’s ‘EV Graveyards’

I see photos of this going around social media a lot, and maybe you do too: fields of abandoned EVs in China, usually framed as examples of how this technology has “failed” and nobody “wants them.” The truth, according to the video above and this story from Bloomberg, is more complicated but no less distressing. They’re from ride-hailing companies that went kaput.

Why didn’t anyone buy them? Because these kinds of small, cheap, low-quality EVs, though ideal for rideshare, aren’t what Chinese buyers want anymore. Not after Tesla started producing EVs there in 2020 and forced everyone to up their game:

This time, the cars were likely deserted after the ride-hailing companies that owned them failed, or because they were about to become obsolete as automakers rolled out EV after EV with better features and longer driving ranges. They’re a striking representation of the excess and waste that can happen when capital floods into a burgeoning industry, and perhaps also an odd monument to the seismic progress in electric transportation over the last few years.

About a decade ago, encouraged by government subsidies, hundreds of automakers across China, both established players and startups, waded into electric-car manufacturing. They churned out huge numbers of early-stage EVs — relatively no-frills cars whose batteries in some instances could only run for around 100 kilometers (62 miles) on a charge.

Those vehicles were mostly bought by ride-hailing companies that leased them to drivers. “At the beginning of China’s EV market, delivery numbers were driven by car-sharing fleets,” said Young Huang, a senior analyst with JSC Automotive, a consultancy with offices in Shanghai and Stuttgart. “Only a few private customers chose to buy them.”

Try and “scale” too fast and this is what happens. And yes, they are an absolute mess to deal with:

The graveyards are a troubling consequence of that consolidation. Not only are the sites an eyesore, getting rid of EVs so quickly reduces their climate benefit considering they’re more emissions-intensive to build and only produce an advantage over combustion cars after a few years. Each of the vehicles’ spent batteries also contain precious ingredients like nickel, lithium and cobalt — metals that could be recycled to make China’s EV industry more environmentally friendly.

According to local media reports, the government of Hangzhou has vowed to dispose of the cars, which started to accumulate in 2019. But when Bloomberg News visited late last month, reporters uncovered several sites filled with abandoned EVs in the city’s Yuhang and West Lake districts after scouring satellite images and hacking through overgrown dirt paths.

So now you have a fuller picture of what really happened. Maybe they’ll end up as makeshift armored vehicles in Ukraine.

ADVERTISEMENT

NYC Proposes Taxis, Ride-Hail Vehicles To Go Zero Emission By 2030

Gravity Taxi
Photo: Gravity

This one’s a bit more of a local story for folks like Matt and me, but trust me, it’s interesting. And it has broader implications for cities and the auto market.

This week, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced an aggressive plan to make all NYC taxi and livery cars—including ride-hail vehicles from Uber and Lyft—either wheelchair-accessible or zero-emission by 2030. Unless hydrogen stations pop up everywhere in Brooklyn and Toyota Mirai sales somehow blow up as a result, we can assume that means EVs.

From SI Live, here’s the proposed phase-in process:

Those benchmarks would increase on the following schedule:

  • 2025: 15% zero-emission or wheelchair-accessible vehicles
  • 2026: 25% zero-emission or wheelchair-accessible vehicles
  • 2027: 45% zero-emission or wheelchair accessible vehicles
  • 2028: 65% zero-emission or wheelchair-accessible vehicles
  • 2029: 85% zero-emission or wheelchair-accessible vehicles
  • 2030: 100% zero-emission or wheelchair-accessible vehicles

Uber and Lyft actually support this, as does Revel, another ride-hail company that already operates on an all-EV basis with Teslas and some Kias. The plan isn’t finalized yet and will depend on public comments and the usual process.

Now, unless you live here or visit for business or pleasure often, why do you care? Because this speaks to an issue we cover here a lot—EV affordability. And as great as this idea is, I’m wondering where the hell all these EVs are supposed to come from. It’s the perfect example of why we need more affordable EVs and soon. (Another issue is wheelchair-accessible vehicles, which can be expensive, clunky, difficult-to-maintain conversion jobs that are rarely “green.”)

ADVERTISEMENT

There are a couple of reasons that NYC’s taxi landscape is overwhelmingly dominated by previous-generation Camrys and RAV4s, often hybrids. They’re tough as nails, for one, but they’re also already ubiquitous. I’m not sure there are any EVs for sale in America I’d describe that way; the Tesla Model Y and Model 3 come closest but they’re not exactly Toyota-reliable.

From what I understand, the EV taxi plan here does depend on more of those cars entering the used market in the next few years. But the city is gonna need a lot of them to pull this off. It’s another reason GM was smart to un-cancel the Chevrolet Bolt; the world will need smaller, more affordable fleet-friendly EVs in the coming years. And the Equinox EV could probably use the backup. That, or the NYC taxi of the future—a lofty and iconic position held by the Checker cabs, Chevy Caprice, Ford Crown Victoria and now the Toyotas—will be a Tesla.

I dunno how I feel about that.

If anyone asks, my ideal outcome is NYC runs nothing but Hyundai Ioniq 5 and 6 cabs like they have in Seoul right now. I’d never get sick of seeing those rad-looking cars everywhere. The city can really lean into the Blade Runner vibes then, especially since we have the climate for it now.

Your Turn

Where do you think the next great affordable EV will come from? Who’s going to make that a reality?

ADVERTISEMENT

Popular Stories

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
117 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Andy Carlson
Andy Carlson
9 months ago

Annnndddd this is why salaried workers should ALSO have a union. 1) they also shouldn’t have to do a thing they weren’t hired for and probably don’t agree with and 2) solidarity

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
9 months ago

Good, the EV’s are right where they belong…now turn it into a junkyard, put the rest of the EV’s in the whole world there, and burn them all

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
9 months ago

Because these kinds of small, cheap, low-quality EVs, though ideal for rideshare, aren’t what Chinese buyers want anymore”

I don’t believe that. I believe that if they list them for a low enough price, people will buy them. I believe the real reason they are sitting and not being sold is because these failed companies are not completely dead – in the bankruptcy-liquidation sense. The company still technically owns the vehicles. There is just nobody left at the companies to do the sensible thing and sell off the fleet for what they can get.

Where do you think the next great affordable EV will come from? Who’s going to make that a reality?”

It’s going to come from Tesla… specifically a model they are starting to work on that some are calling the Model 2.

https://electrek.co/guides/tesla-model-2/

And I bet there is a decent chance it will get built in India.

Hondaimpbmw 12
Hondaimpbmw 12
9 months ago

I’m wondering if they aren’t already on the job. I ordered an anti-glare for the right side of my F-150. It also had BLISS & was heated. I got a left side mirror w/o anti-glare but w/ BLISS & heated. When I sent an email of complaint, I got no response. Waiting to see if a tourniquet applied at the pockets will goose them into action.

Ronald Pottol
Ronald Pottol
9 months ago

Taxi fleets probably turn over quickly, 20 years ago, San Francisco required that they be less than 3 years old, a spare could be 4. After 3 years, they had almost 300k miles on them. So in 6 years, I’d expect the fleet to have turned over at least once.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
9 months ago

“Those unions…”
-George Costanza

Speedway Sammy
Speedway Sammy
9 months ago

My Dad was a salary worker for the phone company in Ohio. When the union went on strike, we would barely see him, because he was doing phone line repair work 12 hrs a day / 7 days a week. But we were excited because he brought home some huge paychecks.

EXL500
EXL500
9 months ago
Reply to  Speedway Sammy

Ditto, albeit in NYC. Hated crossing but had no choice. I was usually indoors.

Last edited 9 months ago by EXL500
Jason pollock
Jason pollock
9 months ago

As a railroad worker I got the advice for the UAW. The government will not help you in a strike.

Myk El
Myk El
9 months ago

Boy about the desk job folks taking on production jobs. I know there’s supposed to be training, but I can’t help but feel there’s a massive liability potential with workman’s comp. being risked here. My employer has a “right to refuse unsafe work” policy. I know I’d invoke it if they tried to put me in a forklift.

Fawgcutter
Fawgcutter
9 months ago
Reply to  Myk El

After one salaried employee in our team wrecked the staff golf cart, I would be scared having him operate a fork lift. (He left the parking brake off while jamming a large car part through the golf cart back, and the car part pressed the accelerator. The golf cart was a total loss after striking a building column.) Agreed.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
9 months ago
Reply to  Myk El

Driving a forklift is not that hard.

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
9 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Yeah I mean, the training took less than a day and I liked operating a forklift. I’m an engineer who likes to get his hands dirty, which may not be the case for the majority of my peers though.

Ottomottopean
Ottomottopean
9 months ago

I just really question the viability of going all EV with taxis for a fleet the size that NYC would require.
I haven’t heard what modern taxis are getting as far as mileage for their lifespan but in the past it was 100s of 1000s of miles with plenty of mechanics on staff.

How long will today’s EV batteries last? I’m sure taxis are going to be pretty abused often nearly draining the battery which isn’t great for longevity. Will they be able to retrofit the car with new batteries every year at a conservative $8-10k?

Since the rest of the car’s parts are also going to be breaking down does that make financial sense for the cab companies and independent operators? Or does NYC end up with giant graveyards like China?

MH7
MH7
9 months ago

People buying cheap cars can’t afford to take chances-buying a questionable EV, assuming that gas savings will make up for the cost 5 years down the road (provided there are no issues), but knowing a new battery is $10k, is not super desirable. At least with a Mitsubishi mirage I have a decent chance of keeping it running without major repairs for 150k.

It really just feels like planned obsolescence. Engineer a bunch of new and unique crap, so that people have to buy new cars or pay for expensive service. You want people to buy in on EVs? Treat them like glorified golf carts. Drop in some standardized (hence easily upgradable or replaceable) motors and batteries, add a standardized third party drive controller and charging port, and call it good. Put out publicly available service manuals detailing testing/replacement of the EV components. Less range and features for sure, but at least I know the damn thing will be running in 15 years. Instead each one has miles of wiring because god forbid it isn’t self driving and hooked up to at least 50 chips that can brick it.

pizzaman09
pizzaman09
9 months ago
Reply to  MH7

I’m surprised that the standardized drive train approach isn’t more common given all the equipment manufacturers have been working on those components. You can get an EV solid rear axle, drop in controllers, and certainly batteries can be modularized as they have been in other industries.

Chartreuse Bison
Chartreuse Bison
9 months ago

“Toyota Mirai sales somehow blow up as a result, we can assume that means EVs”

The Mirai is an EV, an HEV. Teslas and what-not are BEVs

Guillaume Maurice
Guillaume Maurice
9 months ago

Mirai are starting to show up as taxis in Paris.

According to the drver I talked to, they are cheaper to use than Hybrids and are less a hassle than BEV despite the fact that there’s only 3 to 5 H2 stations in the greater Paris area.

Wangan Tuned Kei Car
Wangan Tuned Kei Car
9 months ago

Mirai’s have been taxis in Paris for years. Do you mean the 1st or 2nd gen?

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
9 months ago

So, basically, the UAW workers are going to have a bunch of really huge messes to clean up when they eventually return to work

Pit-Smoked Clutch
Pit-Smoked Clutch
9 months ago

Something doesn’t add up with that EV graveyard. Even if they aren’t competitive, they should have SOME remaining value to SOMEONE. They provide no value to anyone where they are. Why weren’t they liquidated?

On a tangentially related note, this looks REALLY bad for the “EV batteries are 100% recyclable! Someone who is not me should get on that.” Crowd. Looks like someone did and then decided dumping them in a field was more profitable.

Toecutter
Toecutter
9 months ago

Depends on the type of EV batteries and how they were constructed just how recyclable they are.

A lot of these cars were built at the request of the Chinese government, without any plan regarding what was going to be done with them. If I had control of them, I’d give them away for free to everyone who wants one at this point.

As bad as these EV graveyards are, think of what is going to happen when we have millions of EVs with 100+ kWh batteries that are ready for the junk yard, with batteries that are so shot they don’t have a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th usage case. Massive, oversized unaerodynamic vehicles built with proprietary tools and software to be deliberately unrepairable are a complete and total waste of this technology. Yet, that is the “solution” we are being offered, with tech that could actually solve a lot of problems if it were used correctly…

Pit-Smoked Clutch
Pit-Smoked Clutch
9 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

I am actually most worried about what happens when we have a few million big-battery BEVs rolling around that are 15-25 years old. They may not have half their original range, but they’ll keep changing hands until the value drops below scrap. Who buys cheap cars? Poor people. What don’t poor people have? Private garages. So how will they charge their heavily degraded 2,000 lb batteries? At DC fast charge stations. Gulp. Hope the engineers are thinking WAY down the road.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
9 months ago

I had this thought after we saw the fires following flooding last year. People will try charging their beaters how ever they can. I assume (actually, I hope) that this gives engineers headaches and they anticipate it as above. I personally know enough over-confident types in the trades that I believe we’ll see some spectacular fails.

One thing the older Taxi model of fleets could do fairly well at was constant maintenance. With ridehails putting those costs on the driver, this could turn into a costly (to drivers) and wasteful mess. It also could serve as a bit of a proving ground for BEVs. I do wonder if anyone has looked at this bill and calculated the volume of recycling that’s going to be needed.

Guillaume Maurice
Guillaume Maurice
9 months ago

Consider that Bolloré didn’t manage to sell more than a handful former Autolib from Paris ( Bolloré Bluecar ) and had to dismantle and scrap the rest of the fleet.
The biggest issue is the fact that you also need to buy the charging station, because they are only compatible with the Autolib one. ( the rest of the issues are the fact that for most of them the interors are filthy, and they all have issues with the various exterior panels )

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
9 months ago

The salary worker shit isn’t a secret and isn’t new. It happens all the time upon a strike.

However, most of those should already be trained in that shit at least somewhat, but the UAW gets sooooooooooooooooooo pissy and jealous about that.

The insecure union is scared that the white collars will steal their jobs, when in fact knowing how to do the work or at least understanding it is a core part of good leadership and management. The union should WANT them to understand that work!

Too bad we can’t whitelist those graveyard EVs. We need more cars that are inexpensive. People can’t afford new cars anymore.

Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
9 months ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

Yup. My Dad worked at a union power plant. The power plant just can’t shut down, so management had to do the union jobs when there was a strike. Since it has to be staffed, they also planned to basically live in the plant if things got ugly with letting management through the picket line every day. Luckily it never came to that.

Space
Space
9 months ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

At my work they make the white collar workers work 6-12 months out in the field. Supposedly it helps them understand the paperwork better.
I think it’s a good idea.

Captain Zoll
Captain Zoll
9 months ago
Reply to  Space

Having some hands-on experience with any job your managing should be a requirement, regardless of the field of work.

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
9 months ago
Reply to  Captain Zoll

Agreed.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
9 months ago

fields of abandoned EVs in China, usually framed as examples of how this technology has “failed” and nobody “wants them.”

“This week, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced an aggressive plan to make all NYC taxi and livery cars—including ride-hail vehicles from Uber and Lyft—either wheelchair-accessible or zero-emission by 2030. Unless hydrogen stations pop up everywhere in Brooklyn and Toyota Mirai sales somehow blow up as a result, we can assume that means EVs.”

Supply, meet demand

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
9 months ago

I’m not sure currently available mainstream EVs are all that good a solution for Taxi duty. Even something as simple as the aggressive aerodynamics for highway range just doesn’t serve well for comfortable spacious urban trips. Taxi fleets prioritize needs like quick easy loading of people and luggage or even wheelchairs. Not so easy with ‘coupe’ shapes. The big e-suvs are probably too unwieldy for urban use. The ID Buzz might fit the bill, but then there’s the bill. Really, something like an electric transit connect with a beefed up suspension and other durability enhancements would be the right solution.

I also say that because I could probably be pursuaded to buy something like that myself if it were available. 😉

Captain Zoll
Captain Zoll
9 months ago

I’m just imagining Rivian taking their amazon EDV, and rebodying into a LEVC or JPN-taxi shape.
nail the wheelchair accessible and BEV goals in one go!

Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
9 months ago

“Why didn’t anyone buy them? Because these kinds of small, cheap, low-quality EVs, though ideal for rideshare, aren’t what Chinese buyers want anymore.”

A common theme on this website is that basic, no-frills EVs would be popular here in the US. While a cheap EV for the US market would presumably have a longer range than these vehicles, I am not sure why we assume an American equivalent would be any more successful. It sucks that new EVs are unaffordable for the majority of buyers, but I would prefer a gradual transition where EV prices decrease over time. I don’t want to see a situation where unappealing EVs are left to rot and buyers of said vehicles have a reason to be suspicious of EVs.

117
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x