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Brook Park UAW workers in 'wait and see' mode amid furloughs, possible strike orders

Ideastream Public Media
"The anxiety is high in regard to if the company says, ‘Yep. We're done. Go to layoffs because of Kentucky truck being out’, said UAW Local 1250 spokesman Pat Wallace. “I guess it's just a wait-and-see approach.”

It's a waiting game for United Auto Workers at the Cleveland Engine Plant No. 1 in Brook Park. Nearly 400 workers were furloughed on Monday, and there's anxiety among some members over the potential for more furloughs, according to a union spokesperson.

That anxiety comes as negotiations between the company and the union escalated.

UAW president Shawn Fain said a new phase and a new approach is necessary for the nationwide strike. He announced the change on the UAW's Facebook page Friday morning.

The scattered strikes have been ongoing for four weeks, have included hundreds of workers in Ohio. General Motors, Ford and Stellantis have responded with layoffs at other supply chain plants affected by striking workers.

Fain said the union won't wait until Fridays anymore to announce strikes.

"We're not sticking to one pattern or one system giving these companies one extra hour or one extra day,” said Fain, in the announcement on Facebook. “They know what needs to happen, and they need to get it done."

What that will mean for workers in Ohio is unclear.

On Wednesday, 8,700 UAW member workers at the U.S. Kentucky truck plant in Louisville reportedly walked off the job because talks with Ford stalled, Fain said.

"They tried to give us the same deal we rejected two weeks ago and not a dollar more,” said Fain in his online announcement. “At that point I said, that's all you have for us? Our members’ lives and my handshake are worth more than that. You just cost yourself [the] Kentucky truck plant."

On Monday, 375 UAW members working at the Brook Park plant were furloughed, according to UAW Local 1250 spokesman Pat Wallace.

The Brook Park plant produces engines for trucks made at the Ford plant in Kentucky. That facility, the largest Ford plant in the world, remained on strike Friday.

"We do send motors down to the Kentucky plant that goes into the Expedition and the Navigator," said Wallace, the local union spokesperson. "As of right now, the company has not said if we will have additional layoffs because of the strike at Kentucky truck."

About 1,800 people work at the Brook Park plant. Wallace said members are ready to go on strike at a moment’s notice if called upon.

Executives at Ford told reporters this week they reached the limit in terms of contract offers. Fain said his members are at their limit as well.

“I found a pathetic irony in that statement,” Fain said in his statement. “You know who has reached their limit? The tens of thousands of Ford workers with no retirement security. You know who's stretched themselves? The Ford workers who didn't get a single raise for a decade."

Fain added he not have substantive updates on GM or Stellantis, but negotiations continue.

As the strikes enter another week, UAW workers said they're in Brook Park bracing for what may be ahead.

"The anxiety is high in regard to if the company says, ‘Yep. We're done. Go to layoffs because of Kentucky truck being out’, Wallace said. “I guess it's just a wait-and-see approach.”

Josh Boose is associate producer for newscasts at Ideastream Public Media.
Glenn Forbes is supervising producer of newscasts at Ideastream Public Media.