Analysis: Auto industry wonders whether Ford-SK battery plants will sport the union label

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WASHINGTON/DETROIT, Sep 29 (Businesshala) – Ford Motor Co. (FN) and Korean battery partner SK Innovation (096770.KS)’s plan to build three battery plants in the United States, announced this week, sparked a fierce campaign. Will inspire. Labor leaders to organize plants, potentially setting the tone for future union drives in auto industry factories in the US South.

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The United Auto Workers (UAW) union, which represents approximately 150,000 hourly workers at US plants for General Motors Co (GM.N), Ford and Chrysler parent Stellantis NV (STLA.MI), represents workers at battery plants working to do. Union leaders have said Ford has a “moral obligation” to ensure that battery plant jobs are well-paying union jobs.

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The fate of these workers is so important because the manufacturing of electric cars and the batteries that power them is largely job growth in the auto sector. If a UAV strikes Ford-SK plants, it could face the risk of further erosion of membership as consumers buy less gasoline-powered vehicles.

The UAW has strong allies in Washington as US President Joe Biden has called on US automakers to deepen their ties with the union, and House Democratic leaders want to give an additional $4,500 in consumer retail incentives to federally-built US electric vehicles. Huh.

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However, Elon Musk, chief executive of EV leader Tesla Inc. (TSLA.o), whose plants are non-union, suggested Tuesday that the Biden administration is controlled by unions when it comes to EV policy.

Kristin Dzizek, an economist at the Center for Automotive Research, said while unions have seen a broad increase in public support, UAVs face a major challenge in organizing new plants. Many of the new plants are located in Union-resistant states to the south and west, such as western Tennessee where the new Ford truck and battery plants will be built.

“It will be a challenge and one that will test the UAW’s new leadership” to organize the new truck assembly plant, Dziczek said. “It will be a huge victory for the UAW to organize the battery plants.”

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The clock is ticking for UAVs, which have seen a rapid decline in subscriptions over the decades. UAW President Ray Curry, who attended a Ford event in Tennessee on Tuesday to celebrate the company’s plans to build a new electric F-150 assembly and battery plant, said the union was “to assure a culture of manufacturing.” Ford is looking forward to working with Ford to deliver “high quality vehicles and components to its customers.”

Ford’s North American chief operating officer, Lisa Drake, told Businesshala that “in any environment, it’s up to a workforce to decide whether they want to be represented.”

However, he was quick to add that Ford is the largest employer of UAV-represented employees in the United States and has asked SK not to take an anti-union stance when it comes to building joint venture battery plants. . in Tennessee and Kentucky.

Biden’s administration is backing the union.

Brian Deez, the director of the White House National Economic Council, tweeted Tuesday that “Ford’s announcement to invest in well-paying union jobs and salaries shows that the outlook is starting to pay off.” Ford has not said whether those jobs will be unionized, and in any case it will be up to potential workers to vote in favor of the event.

GM is facing similar pressure for US battery plants it is building with LG Energy Solutions, a unit of Korea’s LG Chem (051910.KS).

1 US automaker initially took a similar stance to Ford in that it was up to potential workers whether they wanted to unionize, but later expressed strong support for UAW’s efforts to organize those plants without union backing. did.

The issue is sure to be the subject of contract talks between UAW and Detroit’s Big Three automakers before the current four-year agreement expires at the end of 2023.

The union’s push comes as it has unsuccessfully tried to organize plants like Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) in Tennessee and other overseas auto plants.

In April, then-UAW President Rory Gamble called on GM and Ford to commit to union representation in new joint-venture EV factories.

UAW in the past has criticized GM for announcing a $1 billion investment to build EVs in Mexico, where union rights are seen as weak and hourly wages too low, and few EVs in Mexico. Instead of making, Ford has also been criticized. in Ohio.

Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Ben Kellman in Detroit Additional reporting by Tina Bellone in Austin, Tex. Editing by Matthew Lewis

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