General Motors has big plans for the future, aiming to usher in an all-electric future with 30 new EV models by 2025 and zero tailpipe emissions by 2035. However, the aggressive timeline GM has laid out has resulted in concern among autoworkers, who now fear that the transition to an EV-only future may leave them jobless.
In a recent report, Associated Press discussed GM’s EV ambitions with autoworkers, uncovering anxiety over how the EV transition could affect them in the near- and longterm.
“It’s something that’s in the back of my mind,” said 38-year-old Stuart Hill, who works at the GM Toledo Transmission Plant in Ohio. “Are they going to shut it down?”
While there are no clear-cut answers as far as how the EV transition will affect autoworkers, there are assumptions that the move to an all-electric future will inevitably lead to job losses.
“There are just less parts [in an EV], so of course it stands to reason that there is going to be less labor,” said UAW research director, Jeff Dokho.
Thousands of jobs are estimated to be lost in the transition. As AP points out, a UAW paper published two years ago points to estimates made by Ford and Volkswagen that mass-EV adoption will reduce labor hours by roughly 30 percent per vehicle.
However, alongside the loss of existing autoworkers jobs, new jobs are expected to be created as well. Some of these include production of new EV parts and charging stations, as well as jobs related to the green economy, including wind and solar electricity.
According to Teddy DeWitt, assistant professor of management at University of Massachusetts Boston, who studies the evolution of jobs over time, we are now at the beginning of a transitionary phase similar to the decline of agricultural jobs and the rise of jobs in urban centers following the end of the U.S. Civil War.
“This is that moment to define where we go in the future,” said president of the local UAW chapter at the GM Toledo facility, Tony Totty.
Pressure to move on from internal combustion is mounting. California says that it will ban the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035, the year GM plans to hit zero tailpipe emissions, while President Biden has announced plans to move the nation towards greater EV adoption with half a million new charging stations and conversion of the federal fleet to battery-driven vehicles. According to IHS Markit, global EV sales are expected to increase 70 percent this year.
Despite the anxiety among autoworkers, some are more hopeful. “We’re optimistic about making sure that there are jobs in the future, and that the jobs there now are protected,” said UAW research director, Jeff Dokho.
Nevertheless, for many of those autoworkers building internal-combustion vehicles today, the uncertainty remains.