The United Auto Workers union (UAW) has criticized President Joe Biden’s push for more electric vehicles (EV) due to multiple concerns, including fears that there will be less demand for labor to produce EVs because fewer parts are required in the production process.
Biden’s attempts to transition to EVs has been an issue of concern for the 150,000-member union who are preparing for a strike against major U.S. automakers. The UAW has been in negotiations with Ford, General Motors (GM) and Stellantis, and has threatened to strike if an agreement for a new contract is not reached by Thursday at 11:59 p.m. EST, Politico reports.
Biden is not directly involved in the negotiations and is optimistic that a strike will be averted. However, the labor dispute is politically perilous for Biden and his “Union Joe,” persona. Biden has said he is the “most pro-union president in history,” but his pledge to transition to clean energy may test his relations with unions, according to The Washington Post.
“UAW members feel abandoned by the Democratic Party,” former UAW President Bob King said in an interview with Politico. “I think there’s a segment of the Democratic Party that sees itself as serving corporations rather than the common good. … We’ve had a lot of disappointments.”
Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act and 2021 infrastructure law were supposed to be essential for a U.S. manufacturing restoration, but the $200 billion clean energy investments mostly flow to states without unions. The switch from gasoline-powered vehicles to EVs could cause the UAW to lose members and have fewer jobs. The UAW President Shawn Fain demanded that the Biden administration protect the union members during the transition to EVs, according to Politico.
The UAW said it “supports the transition to a clean auto industry,” but disapproves of the Biden administration issuing multi-billion dollar loans for clean energy “with no consideration for wages, working conditions, union rights or retirement security,” which includes $9.2 billion granted to Ford for plans to build battery plants in Tennessee and Kentucky, according to Politico.
The union initially sought a 40% hourly wage increase over the span of four years and a 32-hour work week. Recent proposals have lowered the hourly wage increase to a mid-30% increase. Fain could call a strike on all three companies if new contracts for U.S. auto workers are not reached, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The UAW may initially target specific plants at the three Detroit automakers for work stoppages, which could cost carmakers, suppliers and workers more than $5 billion, Reuters reported.
“It’s a shame that we gave our economic demands to these companies well over a month ago, almost five weeks ago and didn’t hear anything,” Fain said to CNN. “From the onset of bargaining, we’ve told them we want to do things differently and we do not expect them to wait until the last minute and then want to settle everything … We had to file ULPs at two companies to get it moving.”
“Our goal remains the same – to achieve an agreement that rewards our team members while allowing us to pursue our growth strategy through continued investment in our U.S. manufacturing operations and American jobs,” Tara Stewart Kuhnen, the director of corporate news at GM, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Stellantis referred the DCNF to a press release. “We are on a good path and remain committed to reaching a tentative agreement without a work stoppage that would negatively impact our employees and our customers,” Stellantis Senior Vice President Tobin Williams said in the press release.
The White House, UAW and Ford did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the DCNF.
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