Yarmuth: UAW works in neighboring Kentucky

Yarmuth: UAW works in neighboring Kentucky

February 11th, 2014 John Yarmuth in Opinion Columns

As Tennesseans debate the future of auto manufacturing in your state, I hope you will consider the experience of your neighbors to the north.

I represent Louisville in the U.S. House of Representatives. We're the largest city in Kentucky and home to many world-class amenities, such as Churchill Downs, Louisville Slugger, and the Muhammad Ali Museum. We're also the proud home of two United Auto Workers union-represented auto assembly plants.

Today, Ford's Louisville Assembly Plant is the largest and most flexible high-volume Ford facility in North America. A new Ford Escape comes off the line every 44 seconds, the product of more than 4,200 UAW workers operating state-of-the-art machinery capable of producing six different vehicles.

It wasn't always that way. Just five years ago, the plant was on the brink of closure, and workers who'd watched cut after cut were rightfully worried about their futures. But through an innovative combination of federal investment, new commitments from Ford, and the extraordinary dedication of the UAW, the plant has emerged stronger than ever.

UAW workers are now building those Escapes under a collaborative agreement that secured the current workforce, brought a third shift to the plant, and ultimately helped create thousands of new jobs.

Across town at Ford's Kentucky Truck Plant, more than 4,000 UAW workers build the latest F-Series Super-Duty trucks and other heavy vehicles. Last month, Ford announced a new $80 million investment at that plant, a 15 percent increase in production that will create 350 new, good jobs for Louisvillians.

The investments at Louisville's two UAW-represented plants benefit Ford in obvious ways. They are expected to add nearly $1 billion to Kentucky's economy. And because of the union, workers are sharing in the success: Late last month, Ford announced that its 47,000 UAW hourly workers would receive record-setting profit-sharing checks averaging $8,800 per worker.

Louisville has a long and successful history with Ford. But without the UAW, our working families would not be able to share in that prosperity. The positive relationship forged between the UAW and Ford in Louisville should serve as a model of collaboration for the rest of the nation: When labor and business work together, we can grow our economy, strengthen our communities, and help ensure that working families have the economic security they need to succeed.

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth is a Democrat representing Kentucky's 3rd Congressional District.