“This Just Cost You Kentucky Truck Plant": UAW Announces Major Surprise Strike

Some 8,700 additional auto workers walked off the job on Wednesday in a critical escalation of the Stand-Up Strike.

Keith Brower Brown

Autoworkers at the Kentucky Truck Plant with UAW President Shawn Fain shortly before the Stand-Up Strike began. Luis Feliz Leon

Every Friday for the past four weeks, Big Three CEOs have waited fearfully for United Auto Workers (UAW) President Shawn Fain to announce which plants will strike next.

But without warning on Wednesday afternoon, the union threw a haymaker: within 10 minutes the UAW would be shutting down the vast Kentucky Truck Plant.

But without warning on Wednesday afternoon, the union threw a haymaker: within 10 minutes the UAW would be shutting down the vast Kentucky Truck Plant.

This plant, on 500 acres outside Louisville, is one of Ford’s most profitable—cranking out full-size SUVs and the Superduty line of commercial trucks.

We make almost half of Ford’s U.S. revenue right here,” says James White, who has worked in the plant for a decade.

These 8,700 strikers join the 25,000 already walking the lines at assembly plants and parts distribution centers across the country in the union’s escalating Stand-Up Strike.


Ford has been saying for two weeks that it had more to add to its economic offer, according to a source inside the UAW. It owed the union a counter-offer.

But in today’s bargaining, the company presented the union with the same economic package as before.

If this is all you have for us, our members’ lives and my handshake are worth more than this,” Fain said. This just cost you Kentucky Truck Plant.”

“If this is all you have for us, our members’ lives and my handshake are worth more than this,” Fain said. “This just cost you Kentucky Truck Plant."

We’ll take this under advisement. [Vice President] Chuck [Browning] and I have a call to make.”

Fain and Browning called local leaders. Workers walked off at 6:30 p.m.

***Labor Notes has been doing important work around the UAW strike. Learn more about them by clicking here.***


This plant began operations in 1969, and quickly became a cornerstone of Ford’s strategy to lock in lucrative government and commercial clients. A long line of dump trucks and cement mixers was labeled the L-Series, for Louisville.

Inside the aging facility, safety concerns have mounted as the summers get hotter. People are dropping here because it’s so hot,” says White. Management’s answer was, We’ll give you two Gatorades.’ I’ve seen a woman pass out, and then the supervisor literally stepped over her to restart the line.”

Last year Ford committed $700 million to expand the plant in the next four years, including potentially adding electric variants of its SUVs. But workers here gripe that the plant still lacks any air conditioning or even a cafeteria, while Ford’s nearby Louisville Assembly Plant has had both for years.


UAW Local 862 in Louisville began the year as anything but a stronghold of the union reform movement that would sweep Fain into office. Nearly two-thirds of voting members backed the candidates from the Administration Caucus.

By August, however, local leaders were calling practice pickets. Hundreds of workers turned out; many were inspired by the Teamsters, who had just used practice picketing to out-muscle UPS — its giant Worldport hub is down the road — and win big gains.

By the time the Stand-Up Strike began in September, White says many of his co-workers were raring to go, feeling like we’re ready to walk out of here right now.”

Sign up for our weekend newsletter
A weekly digest of our best coverage

Lowball offers from Ford management infuriated them. Stop giving us one crumb at a time,” White said. We know you can afford giving us the whole thing. It’s what you owe us. Your 40% raise came from us; you can give us a 40% raise.”

During the first few weeks of the strike, Kentucky Truck Plant members heeded the union’s call to organize to refuse voluntary overtime.

White, a full-timer who works a second job in security to support his family, says some members have struggled to give up the extra pay. Already, the exploding local housing costs had turned some members homeless, and forced others to live an hour and a half away.

Despite that tough context, White says, members stayed ready to strike. An hour before they got called to walk out, workers at the plant were already feeling primed to go.

They just want to tip it over for real,” says White. They want it to be like the Boston Tea Party. They feel like it’d be the final move on the chessboard to make the CEO fold.”

This story originally appeared in Labor Notes and is being reprinted with permission. Labor Notes has been doing important work around the UAW strike. Learn more about them by clicking here.

For a limited time:

Donate $20 or more to In These Times and we'll send you a copy of Let This Radicalize You.

In this new book, longtime organizers and movement educators Mariame Kaba and Kelly Hayes examine the political lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath, including the convergence of mass protest and mass formations of mutual aid. Let This Radicalize You answers the urgent question: What fuels and sustains activism and organizing when it feels like our worlds are collapsing?

We've partnered with the publisher, Haymarket Books, and 100% of your donation will go towards supporting In These Times.

Keith Brower Brown is Labor Notes’ labor-climate organizer.

Get 10 issues for $19.95

Subscribe to the print magazine.