uaw Ford-UAW5More than 8,000 union employees of Ford’s two Louisville manufacturing plants are voting today on whether to give strike authority to its leadership, bolstering their position as they negotiate a new contract with Ford Motor Co. as their old one is set to expire on Sept. 15.

The current United Auto Workers’ contract with Ford, General Motors and Chrysler is expiring on the same day, and negotiations between the parties kicked off this summer. Chrysler workers already have voted heavily in favor of a strike if they determine the company has bargained in bad faith.

United Auto Workers Local 862 held an information meeting on Sunday for workers at the two Louisville plants on what they need to know “if a strike becomes necessary,” including “strike preparation, eligibility, included and excluded benefits, along with returning to work.”

UAW Local 862 vice president Tim Sanders tells Insider Louisville that turnout today has been high and he expects the measure to pass by a large majority, considering it a tool to affirm their support of union leadership and let Ford know that workers are willing and prepared to strike if they have to.

“We’re not voting to strike, but we are sending a message to the company,” says Sanders. “We are equipping our negotiators and leadership with the message of the percentage of employees that will support a strike, in the event that it comes to that.”

One particular issue in the contract negotiations is expected to be the two-tiered wage system recently implemented, in which the hourly wage of newly hired workers are nearly half of those hired before 2007. The union likely will note that Ford profits have been skyrocketing of late, including a 44 percent increase in second-quarter profits and a net income in that quarter of $1.9 billion.

Ford has well over 8,000 employees at the Louisville Assembly Plant and the Kentucky Truck Plant, which produce approximately 2,000 vehicles a day. The Louisville Assembly Plant builds the Escape and Lincoln MKC sport-utility vehicles, while the Kentucky Truck Plant builds Ford Super Duty Trucks and the Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs.