Ford: ANALYSIS – Auto industry wonders if Ford-SK battery factories will sport union label, Auto News, ET Auto

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Union leaders said Ford has a “moral obligation” to ensure that jobs in battery factories are well-paying union jobs.

WASHINGTON / DETROIT: The plan for Ford Motor Co and its Korean battery partner SK Innovation to build three battery factories in the United States, announced this week, will spark furious willingness from union leaders to organize the factories, potentially setting the tone for the future union conducted in factories of the automotive industry in the southern United States.

The United Auto Workers (UAW), which represents approximately 150,000 hourly workers at the US factories of General Motors Co, Ford and Chrysler’s parent company, Stellantis NV, is working to represent workers in battery factories. Union leaders said Ford had a “moral obligation” to ensure that jobs in the battery factories were well-paying union jobs.

The plight of these workers is so important because building electric cars and the batteries that power them is largely where job growth lies in the automotive industry. If the UAW tackles Ford-SK factories, it could face the risk of further membership erosion as consumers buy fewer gasoline vehicles.

The UAW has strong allies in Washington, with US President Joe Biden calling on US automakers to deepen their relationship with the union, and Democratic House leaders wanting to give US electric vehicles made by unions an additional $ 4,500 in retail incentives for consumers.

However, Elon Musk, the chief executive of electric vehicle leader Tesla Inc, whose factories are not unionized, suggested on Tuesday that the Biden administration was union-controlled over electric vehicle policy.

As unions have seen a large increase in public support, the UAW faces a huge challenge in organizing new factories, said Kristin Dziczek, an economist at the Center for Automotive Research. Many of the newer factories are located in union-resistant states in the south and west, such as western Tennessee, where the new Ford truck and battery factories will be built.

“It will be a challenge that will test the new leadership of the UAW” to organize the new truck assembly plant, said Dziczek. “It would be a great victory for the UAW to organize the battery factories.”

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Time is running out for the UAW, whose membership has declined sharply over the decades. UAW President Ray Curry, who attended a Ford event in Tennessee on Tuesday to celebrate the company’s plan to build new electric F-150 assembly and battery plants https: // www. reuters.com/business/autos-transportation/ford-sk- ​​invest-114-bln-add-electric-f-150-plant-three-battery-factories-2021-09-27 there, said the union was “keen to work with Ford to continue to ensure the culture of manufacturing high quality vehicles and components for their customers.”

Ford’s North American COO, Lisa Drake, told Reuters that “in any environment, it’s up to employees to decide if they want to be represented.”

She was quick to add, however, that Ford is the largest employer of employees represented by the UAW in the United States and that it has called on SK not to take an anti-union stance on joint venture battery factories to be built. in Tennessee and Kentucky.

The Biden administration supports the union.

White House National Economic Council Director Brian Deese tweeted Tuesday that “Ford’s announcement to invest in well-paying union jobs and wages shows this approach is starting to bear fruit.” Ford did not say those jobs would be unionized, and in any case, it would be up to potential workers to vote in favor of unionization.

GM is facing the same kind of pressure for the US battery factories it is building with LG Energy Solution, a unit of Korean LG Chem.

The No.1 U.S. automaker initially took the same stance as Ford that it was up to potential workers to decide whether to unionize, but subsequently expressed strong support for the UAW’s efforts to organize these factories without approving the union.

The issue will likely be the subject of contract negotiations between the UAW and the Big Three automakers in Detroit before the current four-year deal expires at the end of 2023.

The union’s push comes as it tried unsuccessfully to organize factories like Volkswagen AG’s in Tennessee and other foreign auto factories.

In April, then UAW president Rory Gamble called on GM and Ford to pledge to represent unions at new electric vehicle joint venture factories.

In the past, the UAW has criticized GM for announcing a billion dollar investment to build electric vehicles in Mexico, where union rights are seen as much lower and hourly wages much lower, and has also criticized Ford for choosing to build electric vehicles in Mexico rather than in Ohio.

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Ford said Monday it now expects 40 to 50 percent of its global vehicle volume to be fully electric by 2030, up from its previous forecast of 40 percent.

The move paves the way for the battery industry, a supplier to Ford Motor Co, Hyundai Motor Co and others, to potentially raise funds and go public to finance expansion of its production capacity at high cost.


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