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How a ‘just’ EV transition hinges on a looming labor strike

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Jeff Tyson

The United Auto Workers is threatening to strike against General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, if contract agreements aren’t reached with the automakers by 11:59 p.m. on Thursday. Among the union’s demands is that it represents workers at 10 electric vehicle battery factories.

Ian Greer

Senior Research Associate at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations

Ian Greer is a research professor at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) who has studied the EV transition in Germany, where worker rights and collective power as union members has played a key role. He says the looming UAW strike represents a critical moment for the future of U.S. EV manufacturing and whether the U.S. EV transition will preserve high-quality working lives for EV factory workers.

Greer says:

“Most factory workers making EVs, batteries and electric propulsion systems are nonunionized, receive lower wages and experience worse working conditions compared to the Ford, General Motors and Stellantis workers making internal combustion engines and vehicles. 

Unionized autoworkers are fighting to have EVs and related components produced in existing workplaces and to extend union wages and benefits to battery and component plants.

“If the union fails, the EV transition could take place without being ‘just,’ producing long spells of unemployment and dangerous low-wage jobs where workers have no voice. If it succeeds, working-class Americans will see that they can have better working lives while protecting the planet.”

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