UAW President Shawn Fain chairs the 2023 Special Election Collective Bargaining Agreement in Detroit, March 27, 2023.
Rebecca Cook | Reuters
DETROIT — United Auto Workers leaders are suspending approval of President Joe Biden’s re-election until the union’s concerns about the auto industry’s transition to all-electric vehicles are resolved, a letter says. sent Tuesday by UAW President Shawn Fain to union staff.
Fain, who was elected union president in March, said the UAW wants a “just transition” for workers. He argues that is currently not the case, as automakers are investing billions of dollars, backed by taxpayers’ money, to switch from traditional vehicles to electric vehicles.
“The federal government is pouring billions into the electric vehicle transition, with no strings attached and no commitments to workers,” Fain said in the post obtained by CNBC. “The electric vehicle transition is in serious danger of becoming a race to the bottom. We want national leaders to support us before making any commitments.”
Transitioning traditional autoworkers into new electric vehicle jobs has been a major concern for the UAW for several years. A 2018 study by the union found that mass adoption of electric vehicles could cost the UAW 35,000 jobs. However, the union said more recently that this number could be lower.
The UAW has always supported Democrats. However, former President Donald Trump was able to garner notable blue-collar automotive support during his presidential campaign.
In Tuesday’s letter, Fain said “another Donald Trump presidency would be a disaster,” citing the need for the union “to organize our members behind a pro-worker, pro-climate, pro-democracy political agenda. who can deliver for the working class.”
Speaking in front of a background of American-made vehicles and a UAW sign, President Joe Biden speaks about new proposals to protect American jobs during a campaign stop in Warren, Michigan on September 9, 2020.
Leah Millis | Reuters
Biden’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Biden has been a strong supporter of unions during his presidency, but automakers have increased their investments in recent years in states with “right to work” laws.
Fain’s letter, which was first reported by The Detroit Newscomes nearly two weeks after he said the union would “support candidates who support us” in 2024.
Such a message is a far stronger political stance than the union, which previously backed Biden, has taken in recent years, when former company executives and officials were the subject of a federal corruption probe. .
Fain and other newly elected union leaders presented themselves as reformist candidates for the union who would be louder and more aggressive towards its members.
“At this time, we are working to ensure that the transition to electric vehicles goes smoothly for our members, our families and our communities,” Fain wrote. “We will be ready to talk politics once we have secured a future for this industry and the workers who make it work.”
In the letter, Fain singles out Detroit automakers for recent announcements about factory closures and idling related to electric vehicles that have upended the lives of workers. Most notably, earlier this year, Stellantis idled a Jeep plant in Illinois, citing the need to cut costs to invest in electric vehicles.
Fain also noted the pay rate at a recently opened Ultium Cells LLC battery plant near Lordstown, Ohio – a joint venture between General Engines and LG Energy Solution – compared to that of traditional automotive assembly plants.
Ultium said hourly workers currently earn between $16 and $22 an hour with full benefits, incentives and tuition assistance. That compares to traditional UAW hourly members who can earn more than $32 an hour at GM plants.
Joint venture battery facilities are seen as crucial for the UAW to grow and add members as automakers such as GM transition to electric vehicles, which require less labor and parts than traditional cars internal combustion engine.
“The situation in Lordstown and the current state of the transition to electric vehicles is unacceptable,” Fain said. “We expect actions from those in power to make things right. I want to make sure our staff are armed and ready with the same tone and message.”