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GM battery plant workers vote to unionize, a key win for labor as industry shifts to EVs

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Speaking in front of a backdrop of American-made vehicles and a United Auto Workers (UAW) sign, Democratic U.S. presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about new proposals to protect U.S. jobs during a campaign stop in Warren, Michigan, U.S., September 9, 2020.
Leah Millis | Reuters

DETROIT — Workers at a General Motors

The vote was being closely watched as such battery plants are viewed as crucial for automakers to transition from traditional vehicles with internal combustion engines to all-electric cars and trucks. Several other multi-billion dollar plants from GM and other automakers are under construction in the U.S.

The UAW reports roughly 98% of votes cast were in favor for the union. The count was 710 votes in support of UAW representation; 16 against; and one was void. The National Labor Relations Board, which was overseeing the election, did not immediately respond for comment.

Buoyed by a national labor movement and the Biden administration’s pro-union comments, labor and industry experts largely expected workers at the Ohio plant of Ultium Cells LLC – a joint venture between GM and LG Energy Solution — to vote in support of the UAW’s representation.

The organizing vote comes after Ultium declined to recognize the union through an expediated organizing process called a “card check,” despite comments from GM CEO Mary Barra expressing support for the right for employees to unionize.

Under NLRB rules, both sides have five business days to submit objections to challenge the results.

The plant for Ultium Cells LLC – a joint venture between GM and LG Energy Solution – started production of battery cells in Warren, Ohio in August 2022.
Ultium

Joint venture battery facilities are viewed as crucial for the UAW to grow and add members, as automakers such as GM transition to electric vehicles, which require less traditional labor and parts than cars with internal combustion engines.

The Ultium plant in Ohio, which started production in August, is the first of at least four U.S. battery facilities for the GM-LG joint venture. The plants are expected to employ thousands of workers in the coming years. Ford Motor,Stellantis

How to transition traditional auto workers into new jobs for EVs has been a major concern for the UAW for several years. Ford CEO Jim Farley last month said the company expected electric vehicles to require 40% less workers than conventional cars and trucks.

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