LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The more than 12,000 union workers at Ford Motor Co.’s two Louisville plants will vote today and Tuesday on giving United Auto Workers leaders the authority to call a strike if negotiations over a new four-year labor contract break down.

So-called “strike authorization” votes are a common way that unions project solidarity during contract talks.

“It’s not saying we’re going on strike, but it is saying, I want to get as close to 100% of our members that, if need be (a strike is authorized),” Todd Dunn, president of UAW Local 862 in Louisville, told reporters on Monday.

The UAW began negotiations with Ford and the other Detroit-based automakers, General Motors and Fiat-Chrysler, in July in hopes of reaching new deals this fall. The Ford contract, adopted in 2015, expires on Sept. 14.

As WDRB reported this month, key sticking points in the Ford talks include the company’s generous healthcare benefits, the wage gap between employees before and after the economic recession of 2008 and the company’s growing use of temporary employees.

Ford declined to comment on Monday.

The last UAW strike of Ford occurred in 1976, according to a company spokeswoman.

There are a little more than 12,500 hourly employees between Louisville Assembly Plant and Kentucky Truck Plant.

The contract authorization vote starts at 4 p.m. Monday and wraps up at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822, cotts@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2019 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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Chris Otts reports for WDRB.com about business and economic topics, higher education and local / state government. He joined WDRB News in 2013 after seven years with The Courier-Journal. Got a tip? Chris is at 502-585-0822 and cotts@wdrb.com.