NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The United Auto Workers union is calling on General Motors to pay full union wages at electric vehicle battery factories, thrusting what had been a festering conflict into the spotlight.
The union, in a statement reacting to GM’s announcement Friday that it would build a second U.S. battery plant, said the company and its joint venture partner have a “moral obligation” to pay the higher wages at battery factories.
The statement sets the tone for the next round of contract talks in 2023 between GM, Ford and Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler), all of which have plans to make significant numbers of battery-powered vehicles by then as they invest billions to transition from internal combustion engines.
However the conflict is resolved, it’s likely to chart the course of American manufacturing wages into the next decade as the nation moves from petroleum-powered vehicles to those that run on electricity.
GM said wages at the battery plants would be determined by Ultium Cells LLC, the joint venture with LG Energy that’s running the factories.
GM and LG Energy Solutions, its partner on the new plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., and another under construction in Lordstown, Ohio, near Cleveland, should work with the UAW “to make sure these are good-paying union jobs like those of their brothers and sisters who make internal combustion engines,” the union statement said.
Currently top-scale union production workers at internal combustion engine and transmission plants run by GM, Ford and Stellantis make more than $31 per hour. At a GM plant assembling batteries in Brownstown Township, Mich., the union agreed in 2009 to $15 to $17 per hour wages to assemble battery cells into packs for the now-canceled Chevrolet Volt hybrid gas-electric vehicle. GM also pays about $22.50 per hour at union-represented parts manufacturing plants.