General Motors and the United Auto Workers (UAW) labor union are poised to spar over wages for the automaker’s new battery plant.
Per a recent report from the Associated Press, the UAW issued a statement on Friday saying that General Motors had a “moral obligation” to pay high wages at its upcoming all-electric vehicle battery factories, adding that the automaker would need “to make sure these are good-paying union jobs like those of their brothers and sisters who make internal combustion engines.”
The recently announced battery plant in Tennessee is the product of a $2.3 billion investment from General Motors and LG Chem. The plant will be owned and operated by Ultium Cells LLC, a joint venture between General Motors and South Korean chemical company LG Chem. The new Tennessee facility follows construction of another battery plant in Lordstown, Ohio.
General Motors has said that worker wages at the upcoming battery plants would be determined by Ultium Cells LLC.
The UAW statement looks to set the tone for upcoming negotiations between the union and automakers with looming contract negotiations in 2023. The conflict may also draw involvement from President Biden, who has promised “good-paying” union jobs in the push for greater all-electric vehicle development and adoption in the U.S.
Per the AP report, top union members earn more than $31 per hour at GM’s engine and transmission plants. However, following the announcement of the Lordstown plant in 2019, GM CEO Mary Barra indicated that workers would be paid less than top union wages in order to remain cost-competitive.
In 2009, union workers at the GM Brownstown Township plant in Michigan received $15 to $17 per hour producing battery cells for the Chevy Volt hybrid, now discontinued.
It’s estimated that the transition to all-electric vehicle production could result in 25 percent to 30 percent fewer workers required to build an equivalent number of vehicles when compared to internal combustion.