UAW says GM will place all EV battery plants under union agreement

United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain announced today that GM has “leapfrogged” other automakers in strike negotiations by agreeing to place all EV battery plant workers under the union’s national master agreement.

The UAW has been on a partial strike for three weeks now, contending that workers’ pay has not kept up with auto industry profits and executive pay. The strike has covered all of the Big Three American automakers (GM, Ford and Chrysler (Stellantis)) simultaneously, but the UAW is only striking at some plants, threatening to expand the strike if automakers’ offers are not suitable.

Electric vehicles have been in focus during the strike, as EVs have fewer parts, and therefore require fewer man-hours in assembly, which means the industry could see job losses in the shift to EVs.

This is something a workers’ union would generally want to avoid, but for their part the union has never claimed it wants to pump the brakes on the EV transition, rather that it wants to ensure a “just transition” that takes into account worker pay and safety.

For example, UAW contends that average wages at battery plants are significantly lower than average wages at other automotive manufacturing facilities.

This was the argument that led one GM Ultium battery plant to vote overwhelmingly to unionize in December. That plant then earned a 25% pay increase in August.

But now, it looks like all of GM’s Ultium workers will be covered under the union’s master agreement, per today’s announcement by UAW president Shawn Fain (timestamped to start of speech at 15:57):

The UAW had planned to expand its strike to GM’s Arlington Assembly plant, where large SUVs are made, but says that due to these concessions made by GM, it will pause the expansion of the strike for now.

Fain said that the UAW will fight for similar concessions from Ford and Stellantis, but that today’s movement represented a “leapfrog” that puts GM ahead of Ford and Stellantis in ensuring the “just transition” UAW is seeking.