Battery Workers Vote Overwhelmingly to Join UAW

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Some 900 employees at the General Motors and LG Energy Solutions plant in Ohio will become members of the United Auto Workers, following an election this week supervised by the National Labor Relations Board.

Ultium Cells LLC Ohio building front REL
Workers at the Ultium plant run by GM and LG Energy voted 710 to 16 for UAW representation.

 Workers at Ultium Cells voted by 710 to 16 overwhelmingly in favor of joining the UAW.

“Our entire union welcomes our latest members from Ultium,” said UAW President Ray Curry. “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.” 

Petition filed last month

The UAW petitioned for the vote last month after GM declined to recognize the union after a “card-check.” During the card check, the UAW said the more than half of the union members had turned in post cards saying they wanted to belong the union.

UAW Curry at Ultium plant
UAW President Ray Curry, left, is looking to unionize all of the Ultium plants.

GM-LG Energy Solutions, running the battery plant near Warren, Ohio on property that was part of GM’s Lordstown assembly complex, which had closed in 2019 after a bitter fight with the union, did not actively campaign against unionization. 

In fact, GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said during a recent interview she was in favor of the battery-plant employees unionizing.

During a lunchtime talk with members of the Automotive Press Association in Detroit, Barra also waved aside a questioner, who suggested unionization of the plants employees would make it more expensive to operate than the non-union battery plants operated by other companies as the auto industry moves toward battery-electric vehicles.

GM stood aside as UAW organized

Ultium workers UAW vote
Workers had to participate in an election after GM declined to accept the card check.

The key is to make sure the plant is competitive, which certainly can be done with unionized labor, Barra said. In fact, GM’s unionized employees have been critical to boosting the overall quality of GM’s vehicles during the pandemic, according to survey J.D. Power. GM’s quality improved while the scores of other companies dropped, she noted.

Barra, the top issues GM and the union will face during contract negotiation in 2023, could include uncertain economy. “But it will be interesting, given inflation and the (uncertain) economic backdrop. You tell me what the economic situation will be next year. I don’t think anybody knows,” Barra said.

Outside groups erected billboards near the new battery plant, highlighting the recent scandals inside the union, which led to jail sentences for a dozen union officials and officers.

For the union, losing the Lordstown vote would have been a crushing embarrassment, which would have made securing GM’s remaining three battery plants nearly impossible.

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