Electric vehicle battery employees vote to join United Auto Workers union

Workers at the Ultium Cells plant in Lordstown Township, Ohio, build electric-vehicle batteries for General Motors.

By a 710-16 margin, workers at the Ultium Cells LLC auto electronic battery plant in Warren, Ohio, voted Dec. 9 to unionize with the Auto Workers’ Region 2B, the union announced.

Winning a  contract may not be as easy as organizing the plant, where General Motors and the Korean multinational giant LG Energy Solutions are partners. GM turned down UAW’s initial request for voluntary recognition, aka card-check, at Ultium but did not contest the election’s outcome.

“GM is going totally EV (electronic vehicle),” one analyst told CNBC. “The last thing they want is a battle with the UAW.”

GM CEO Mary Parra told various news outlets, including local radio, CNBC and CNN that she welcomed the vote and looks forward to quickly reaching a contract, but she also said GM expects to pay the Ultium battery workers at “parts plant” rates, which are around $10/hour less than workers earn at auto factories, in addition to their full benefit package.

“What workers at Ultium in Lordstown have achieved was no small feat,” wrote Amy Richardson on Region 2B’s website. “They refused to give up or to let the company divide them with delays and stall tactics. And the UAW was there to support them all the way.”

President Joe Biden sent congratulations to the newest members of the United Auto Workers.

“I ran for President to rebuild the middle class. The middle class built America – and unions built the middle class,” said Biden. “My economic plan is creating good-paying jobs that you can raise a family on – many that don’t require a college degree – and provide the free and fair choice to join a union.”

“By rebuilding our infrastructure and our manufacturing of electric vehicle batteries and semi-conductors, these jobs will bring our supply chains back home and tackle the climate crisis at the same time,” said Biden. “In my administration, American and union workers can and will lead the world in manufacturing once again.”

“Region 2B has stood with Ultium workers since the moment they said they wanted to form their organizing committees,” outgoing regional director Wayne Blanchard told Richardson. “Their hard work and the support of Region 2B members and staff have led to this powerful victory.

“Special thanks to the retirees of Local 1112 who would open the hall at any hour to help Ultium workers meet.”

“Our entire union welcomes our latest members from Ultium,” UAW President Ray Curry said on its website. “As the auto industry transitions to electric vehicles, new workers entering the auto sector at plants like Ultium are thinking about their value and worth. This vote shows that they want to be a part of maintaining the high standards and wages that UAW members have built in the auto industry.”

The union will represent “full-time and regular part-time and maintenance employees, including, but not limited to, the following departments/teams: Mixing, coating, roll press, notch & dry, lamination and stack, packaging, jig, gas/degas, charge/discharge, end of line, material handlers, quality inspectors, production maintenance, HVAC, boilers, electricians, industrial maintenance tech, machinist, and production technician leaders/crew leaders,” the National Labor Relations Board’s election notice said.

The Korean conglomerate which jointly owns the Warren plant, LG, had no comment on its website on the union vote. But it invested $250 million years ago in a plant in Inchon to build electronic components for the Chevy Bolt. The site did not say how many workers toil at Inchon—or whether their parts include batteries.

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