Ford Delivers Electric Vehicles With A Heaping Side Of Healthcare

Something must be afoot when a leading US auto maker like Ford Motor Company highlights its healthcare benefits alongside the rollout of a new multi-state, multi-billion dollar manufacturing investment plan with a heavy focus on electric vehicles. Building and retaining a workforce of thousands in a hyper-competitive labor market is a good guess, and other factors could be at work, too.

More Electric Vehicles & Healthcare, Too

Ford launched its new EV manufacturing plan with a splash on June 2. It put union jobs and healthcare benefits front and center.

“United Auto Workers and Ford Motor Company leaders today announced plans to add more than 6,200 new US manufacturing jobs in the Midwest, convert nearly 3,000 temporary UAW-Ford workers to permanent full-time status and provide all hourly employees healthcare benefits on the first day of employment,” Ford stated in a press release dated June 2.

Top leadership at UAW chimed in with statements on their own website.

UAW Vice President Chuck Browning emphasized the healthcare benefits.

“The essential necessity of quality healthcare and full-time employment are longstanding principles that have been communicated to the Company by the UAW International Union and our UAW Local Unions since our inception,” he said.

“I applaud the actions of Ford Motor Company to address these issues outside the realm of collective bargaining. These steps taken by Bill Ford Jr. and CEO Jim Farley are both a refreshing and innovative approach to labor relations that delivers great benefit when most needed by our hard-working members,” he added.

UAW President Ray Curry also drew attention to the healthcare benefits. “We are always advocating to employers and legislators that union jobs are worth the investment. Ford stepped up to the plate by adding these jobs and converting 3000 UAW members to permanent, full-time status with benefits,” he said.

Wait, How Many Electric Vehicles?

To be clear, the new multi-state plan is not all about electric vehicles. As with other legacy auto makers, Ford is still disentangling itself from a century’s worth of fossil-centric operations. However, electric vehicles do get a big share of the love.

The new manufacturing plan involves a $3.7 billion round of investments in factories located in Ohio, Michigan, and Missouri. Alongside the creation of 6,200 new jobs at those facilities, Ford also anticipates a ripple effect totaling 74,000 jobs for businesses other than Ford across the US.

A good $2 billion of the total plan is going to Michigan, where Ford will create 2,000 new jobs at three assembly plants. One of those, the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, will bump production of Ford’s popular all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck up to 150,000 units per year.

Electric vehicles are also in the mix in Missouri, where a relatively modest $95 million investment and the creation of 1,100 union jobs will set a third shift in motion at Ford’s Kansas City Assembly Plant. That will enable Ford to increase production of its new E-Transit EV, as well as the more familiar Transit ICE version of the popular van.

“Mystery” Commercial Electric Vehicles Are Part Of The Plan

Perhaps the most interesting part of the plan is the $1.5 billion aimed at Ohio, where Ford will create 1,800 union jobs at the Ohio Assembly Plant for an “all-new EV commercial vehicle” within the next few years.

Interesting! If you have any idea what this “all-new EV commercial vehicle” could be, drop us a note in the comment thread.

Perhaps it has something to do with the Oshkosh Defense contract for new US Postal Service vehicles, or perhaps not. On the perhaps side, last summer the Detroit Free Press reported that Ford would be supplying transmissions to Oshkosh for its Postal Service contract to produce both battery electric vehicles and ICE models. Perhaps that inspired Ford to poke around for new opportunities in the commercial EV field.

Whatever that may be, Ford is not saying yet, although it did drop a hint that the new commercial EV will dovetail with the company’s Ford Pro service package, which it has been pitching to fleet managers transitioning to electric vehicles. Based on a Ford press release dated May 23, we’re guessing that a mid-sized moving or delivery truck could be in the works.

“Ford Pro is also helping government agencies and businesses of all sizes do their part to address the urgency of climate change and help advance progress toward a sustainable future by showing them the clear advantages of an electric ecosystem,” Ford stated, citing the recent launch of a relationship between Ford Pro and Penske Truck Leasing, among other partners.

How About Some Pregnancy Rights With Your Healthy Food?

As for how Ford managed to enlist the support of UAW leadership, that’s not a secret. Ford seems to have done its homework and has gone the extra mile to attract, and retain, more hourly workers in a challenging environment.

The ongoing labor shortage can be especially challenging for the manufacturing sector, where remote work is impossible. Instead, the Ford manufacturing plan includes workplace improvements to the tune of $1 billion.

“As a result of discussions with the UAW, Ford is taking steps to identify and address the top wants and needs of employees. Potential enhancements include better access to healthy food, new EV chargers in plant parking lots, better lighting in parking lots and more,” Ford explains.

Providing health benefits to hourly workers is a significant part of the plan and it should have a significant impact on Ford’s ability to attract workers that might otherwise seek work-from-home opportunities, self-employment, or gig work.

The June 2 announcement does not outline the details of the healthcare plan, but Ford’s overall emphasis on healthcare benefits for hourly workers could put the company in rather interesting position if and when the Republican-majority US Supreme Court dismantles the 50-year-old Roe v. Wade decision and other precedents that support the right of pregnant people to manage their own pregnancies, free from state or community policing.

The leaked draft of the forthcoming Roe V. Wade decision has already impacted corporate human resources planning all across the nation. Two dozen Republican-controlled state legislatures have already passed or prepared “trigger laws” that place hardcore restrictions on pregnancy rights. That includes Missouri and Ohio, with Michigan only held back by Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s veto power.

“The most compelling economic decision a woman will make in her lifetime is whether and when to have a child…and if you take a job in Michigan and you don’t have that right anymore, that’s gonna be a hard sell for us to say Michigan is a place where you should come and make your life,” Governor Whitmer told attendees at a bipartisan policy earlier this week.

For that matter, last fall Ford announced the creation of 11,000 new jobs in partnership with the battery manufacturer SK On in two other states where the rights of pregnant people are under attack, Tennessee and Kentucky.

No word yet on whether or not Ford is laying plans to take action, but other corporations have been laying the groundwork to bump up their support for pregnancy rights through their health plans, mainly by including travel benefits to states where the agency of pregnant people is respected and legally protected.

As of this writing it appears that corporations are mainly interested in protecting their full-time employees. Protective policies for part-time and hourly employees could also be in the works once the final version of the Roe v. Wade decision becomes public.

Hold on to your hats!

Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.

Photo: Electric vehicles highlighted in new manufacturing investment plan, courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

Note to our commenters: If you’re wondering why The Ford Foundation does not get a mention in this article, they are a completely separate entity, as the organization clearly states on its home page.


 


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