UAW Strike Pits Biden Union Ties Against EV Tech

UAW Strike Pits Biden Union Ties Against EV Tech

WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden's two main goals - fighting climate change and expanding the middle class by supporting unions - are colliding in the key battleground of Michigan as the United Auto Workers attack the nation's largest auto companies.

The strike has so far attracted 13,000 workers, less than a tenth of the union's total membership, but it is a major test of Biden's ability to rally a broad and contentious political coalition for re-election.

Biden is trying to cut greenhouse gas emissions and revive China's growing electric vehicle market. His groundbreaking legislation, known as the Low Inflation Act, included billions of dollars in incentives to put more clean cars on the road.

As a result of these actions and changing needs, Ford, GM and Stellar are investing billions to rebuild their core electric vehicle businesses, which are critical to combating climate change. But they make little or no profit from these cars, while Tesla, which dominates electric vehicle sales, is profitable and growing fast.

Ford said in July that its electric vehicle business would lose $4.5 billion this year. If the union had agreed to its requested increases in wages, pensions and other benefits, the workers' total compensation would have been double what Tesla received.

The union's demand will force Ford to stop investing in electric vehicles, CEO Jim Farley said in an interview Friday. “We want to talk about a sustainable future, not one that forces us to choose between going out of business and rewarding our employees.”

Of greater concern to workers is that electric vehicles require far fewer parts than gasoline-powered models, and many jobs are often left behind. Mufflers, catalytic converters, fuel injectors and other factories that are not needed by electric vehicles need to be repaired or shut down.

Many new battery and electric vehicle factories have sprung up and can hire workers from closed factories. But automakers are gaining power in the South, where labor laws work more against union organizers, than in the Midwest, where the U.S. is more powerful. One of the union's demands is that workers at the new plants be covered by the automakers' national labor agreement, a demand the automakers say they can't meet because the plants are owned by partnerships. The union wants to restore its right to strike to prevent plant closures.

“We are at the beginning of a new industrial revolution, and we are on the same path as the previous industrial revolution: big profits for the few and poverty and bad jobs for the many,” Madeleine said. Janice is executive director of Jobs to Move America, an advocacy group that works closely with the UAW and other unions.

The UAW is reaching out to communities across the country to make sure this transition works for everyone, Yiannis said.

Automakers have posted record profits over the past decade, but time pressures for Tesla and foreign automakers could take a toll during the shutdown.

These three companies are already vying to build an electric vehicle business. GM's new battery plant in Ohio has been slow to produce batteries, delaying electric versions of the Chevrolet Silverado truck and other vehicles. Ford was forced to halt production of the electric F-150 Lightning in February after the battery caught fire in one of the vans parked outside the plant during a quality check. And Stellantis won't start selling all-electric cars in the US until next year.

These problems, coupled with Tesla's growing sales, could put the union in a strong position to negotiate a favorable deal.

"The president is in a very difficult position," said Eric Gordon, a professor at the Ross School of Business in Michigan. “This is the magic wand needed to become the greenest president in history.”

Brittany Eason, who has worked at Ford's Wayne, Michigan, assembly plant for 11 years, said workers are concerned about being "pushed out of computers and electric vehicles."

“How do you expect people to be comfortable working if they are afraid of losing their jobs?” said Eason, who plans to attend this weekend. Electric vehicles may be inevitable, she said, but changes need to be made “so everyone can feel safer in their jobs, in their homes, in everything.”

BIDEN was attacked

Biden acknowledged tensions in the White House on Friday, saying the transition to clean energy "must be fair and reasonable for auto workers and auto companies."

He sent his top aides to Detroit to help negotiate and pushed the administration to make more generous offers to the union, saying that "record corporate profits mean they will have to go further to win contracts."

As part of its demand, the UAW wants to represent battery plant workers who will be greatly impacted by technological changes in an industry where supply chains have been disrupted.

“Batteries are the energy source of the future,” said Dave Green, the union's regional director for Ohio and Indiana. “Our engine and transmission staff must be able to transition to the next generation.”

However, managers are trying to reduce labor costs as their companies prepare to compete in the global marketplace. China is a major manufacturer of electric vehicles and batteries.

“The US strike, like the strike winter, is a natural outgrowth of the Biden administration's 'whole of government' approach to unionization,” said Susan Clark, CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce.

Some environmental groups expressed their support for the strike, recognizing that the work is critical to gaining support for the climate agenda.

“We are at a very important moment in the history of the auto industry,” said Sam Gilchrist, deputy director of communications for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The president's policies have raised concerns about the length and scale of the strike, which could damage the economy in an election year. He focused on Michigan, a key component of Biden's 2020 victory and critical to his chances of winning a second term.

Former President Donald Trump, the Republican leader, sees an opportunity to widen the gap between Biden and labor. Biden issued a statement saying it would "destroy America's auto industry and destroy countless jobs for unionized auto workers, especially in Michigan and the Midwest." There is no such thing as a “just transition” that will destroy the livelihoods of these workers and destroy America's beloved industries.

"Electric cars are made in China, not in the United States," Trump said in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," adding that "running a car plant sells like a river."

Trump's comments were not supported by UAE President Sean Fain.

“This is not the person who represents working class people,” he told MSNBC earlier this month. “He belongs to the billionaire class. We must not forget this. And that’s what our members should be thinking about when they go to vote.”

Omar Musa, a Biden campaign spokesman, said Trump "will say anything to distract him from breaking his long-standing promises and disenfranchising American workers." Like then-President Barack Obama, Trump signaled that he would let auto companies fail during the financial crisis rather than bail out.

But there are also differences between Biden and his work.

When the Energy Department announced a $9.2 billion loan for battery plants in Tennessee and Kentucky, Fein, who is involved in a partnership between Ford and the South Korean company, said the federal government is actively supporting a race for billions to destroy people. Money.

Madeline Yiannis, co-executive director of Jobs to Move America, an environmental and labor advocacy group, said the White House must do more to address labor issues.

“We don't have enough career opportunities for people to see themselves in the future and leave jobs in industries that are creating a crisis in our world,” she said.

Inflation-adjusted wages for U.S. automakers have fallen 19 percent since 2008, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank.

Union officials say they are aware of changes in the industry and do not want to hurt GM, Ford and Stellar as the companies try to regain ground lost to Tesla, which has resisted unionization efforts. . Factories. Detroit automakers also face competitors such as Rivian, an Illinois startup that makes electric cars and station wagons, as well as foreign rivals such as Mercedes-Benz and Toyota, whose U.S. factories are mostly located outside the South.

“That's the biggest challenge,” says Karl Brauer, CEO of online marketplace, “trying to find a long-term contract in an industry that is very uncertain and unknown for the next five years.

Chris Majorian and Joey Cappelletti of the Associated Press and Jack Ewing of the New York Times contributed information to this article.

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