United Auto Workers Lobby GM, Ford to Unionize Battery Factories
United Auto Workers chairman Rory Gamble told Reuters the union is in talks with General Motors (GM.N) over worker representation at the joint venture’s battery factories, and has expressed opposition to the proposals for Washington to impose a firm deadline to end the use of gasoline and diesel. – motor vehicles.
Gamble said the UAW has raised concerns with GM and Ford Motor Co (FN) about the joint venture and potential electric vehicle operations put in place by automakers and supplier partners who so far are not represented by the union. GM is building two battery production plants in the United States with South Korean partner LG Chem. Ford plans to invest in the manufacture of batteries.
“We have to make sure that the work stays at a decent wage and that these workers can organize themselves,” Gamble said in an interview. “We have ongoing discussions with General Motors.”
General Motors said in a statement that its Ultium EV battery facility “is part of a joint venture and is a separate company – Ultium Cells LLC. The membership at these sites will determine whether or not the facility is union represented.”
The automaker also said senior management “meets with the UAW on a regular basis” and that “these discussions are private – we do not comment on these conversations in the media.”
The UAW, with nearly a million active and retired members, is a key player in the debate in Washington and state capitals over the regulation of gasoline vehicles as President Joe Biden shapes the policies of his administration on climate change.
Many UAW autoworkers make a living building Detroit-branded pickup trucks and SUVs, or assembling engines and other components for these vehicles in midwestern states like Michigan.
Gamble compared the technological challenge presented by electric vehicles to the disruptions caused by the oil price shocks of the 1970s, and to government policies aimed at demanding rapid improvements in energy efficiency in response. The struggles of Detroit automakers to comply opened the door for Japanese and later European automakers to establish a parallel, non-union auto industry in the United States.
California and 11 other predominantly coastal and Democratic-leaning states have called on Biden to set a 2035 deadline to phase out sales of new internal combustion vehicles that emit CO2. Biden did not agree to approve a deadline.
“We don’t like those tight deadlines you hear. We don’t think a lot of them are fully achievable,” Gamble said. “We don’t have to put all of our eggs in one basket.”
“When auto workers hear about zero emissions on a certain date, they feel very uncomfortable because they feel it’s a challenge for their very job,” Gamble said. “We are seeing a mix of ‘electric vehicles and internal combustion engines’ for years to come.”
He said the United States should “switch to 100% electric vehicles at the right time, when everything is in place.”
He praised Biden and the White House for their extensive engagement with the union. “He understands the challenges our members face,” said Gamble.
Referring to the administration’s upcoming decision to revise fuel efficiency requirements, Gamble said Biden should adopt a “fair standard that doesn’t place a lot of burden on automakers” or cost jobs.
Biden wants $ 174 billion to boost the electric vehicle market, including $ 100 billion for consumer discounts. Gamble has also expressed concern about the plan, fearing that much of the money will be used to subsidize electric vehicles built abroad.
“We don’t have a lot of American electric vehicles on the road right now,” Gamble said, saying any new rebate program should ensure it “will increase American manufacturing.”
Gamble wants the administration to make sure workers in factories producing electric vehicles, batteries and components can unionize. American workers at the leading electric vehicle maker, Tesla, are not represented by a union.
The United States must do more to ensure that much of the components related to electric vehicles are made domestically and that workers receive good wages, he said.
“We don’t need another service sector in this country,” Gamble said. “That’s what I’m afraid of. If these jobs are low-wage, minimum-benefit jobs, it won’t benefit the economy.”
Gamble said he doesn’t personally plan to buy an electric vehicle – and he’s skeptical that many Americans will buy electric vehicles.
“I have no interest at all in an electric vehicle,” he said. “I’m just dyed in the wool, ‘Give me my V-8 and my van.'”
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