“I think organizing those [non-union] plants needs to be our number one priority after we get done organizing the Big 3,” says Ryan Ashley at Ford Cleveland Engine. “With how significant the gains are looking in this contract, they’ll see it. And it’ll help.”
On Facebook Live Friday afternoon, United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain symbolically awarded roses to automakers General Motors, Stellantis, and Ford based on progress at the negotiating table, a reference to the reality show “The Bachelor.” The only thing missing was teary-eyed CEOs breathing a sigh of relief as the UAW agreed not to widen its strike to more factories for now. The UAW was poised to tap 5,000 members at GM’s assembly plant in Arlington, Texas, as part of its latest stand-up strike escalation. These workers would have joined 25,000 already on strike at five assembly plants and 38 parts distribution centers nationwide.
The United Auto Workers are entering their third week of the first-ever simultaneous strike against the three big automakers, and for the first time, a sitting US president, Joe Biden, joined them on the picket line. Executives at General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis are pushing back on worker demands by invoking the climate crisis. They say it is impossible to give workers what they want while also making a swift transition to manufacturing electric vehicles. On September 14, Ford’s CEO Jim Farley said that the union’s demands — higher wages, better hours, an end to tiered employment, and guaranteed job security in a green energy transition — could send the company into bankruptcy.
Thirty-year-old Rick Savage was among the first workers hired at Ultium Cells’ 2.8-million-square-foot battery plant in Lordstown, Ohio, in April 2022. “I heard about the battery plant and how it was going to be technologically superior to all other manufacturing companies,” Savage remembers thinking. “The future of the automotive industry is going to be electric.” Ultium Cells was a high-profile joint venture between U.S. automaker General Motors and South Korea’s LG Energy Solution. The Lordstown plant — billed as the largest battery plant of its kind anywhere in the country — was predicted to cost some $2.3 billion and generate more than 1,100 new jobs.
The head of United Auto Workers (UAW) raised the prospect of strikes ahead of talks with the three biggest automakers in Detroit later this month, as the industry faces major changes amid the shift to electric vehicles. Shawn Fain, the union’s president, said the auto workers will have a chance to attain larger concessions from the companies — General Motors (GM), Stellantis and Ford — in their new contracts “only if our members get organized and ready to strike.” The auto union is seeking to secure its members’ place in the emerging electric vehicle (EV) market — specifically joint-venture plants often operated by both the auto manufacturers and companies that make the batteries needed for EVs.
Contracts covering 150,000 auto workers at the Big 3 will expire on September 14, and the new leadership of the United Auto Workers is taking a more aggressive stance than in years past. “We’re going to launch our biggest contract campaign ever in our history,” UAW President Shawn Fain told members in a Facebook live video. Fain took office in March after winning the union’s first one member, one vote election. Running on the slogan, “No Corruption, No Concessions, No Tiers,” he and the Members United slate swept all the positions they ran for, giving reformers a majority on the international executive board.
After a bruising three-year fight, workers at school bus manufacturer Blue Bird in Fort Valley, Georgia, voted May 12 to join United Steelworkers (USW) Local 697. “It’s been a long time since a manufacturing site with 1,400 people has been organized, let alone organized in the South, let alone organized with predominantly African American workers, and let alone in the auto industry,” said Maria Somma, organizing director with the USW. “It’s not a single important win. It’s an example of what’s possible—workers wanting to organize and us being able to take advantage of a time and a policy that allowed them to clear a path to do so.”
Holidays in my childhood were spent at my grandparents’ farm in Plain Grove, Pennsylvania, 35 miles from East Palestine, Ohio. My grandfather’s grandfather fought at Gettysburg and homesteaded the 160-acre farm after the Civil War. My grandmother sold it in the 1960s for $13,000, lacking a male heir to do the work; but my relatives still live in the area. I have therefore taken a keen interest in the toxic chemical disaster that resulted when a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed in East Palestine on Feb. 3, although it is not my usual line of research. The official narrative doesn’t seem to add up. Something else must have been going on, but what?
After nearly 30 years in the labor movement, Cindy Estrada is well familiar with the corporate playbook. “As soon as wages and benefits are decent, they want to move that work somewhere else.” That’s what happened, the United Autoworkers Vice President explained at a recent rally, after Oshkosh Defense secured a huge contract to build postal vehicles. “The ink was still drying,” Estrada said, “when they announced they were moving the work to South Carolina.” UAW members had fully expected to build the postal trucks in the existing Oshkosh Defense facility in Wisconsin. After all, the company had won the contract on the basis of their quality work. Instead, Oshkosh Defense plans to convert a vacant former Rite-Aid warehouse in notoriously anti-union South Carolina to fulfill the postal contract, circumventing the unionized workforce in Wisconsin.
By Alex Davies for Wired - AFTER MORE THAN a century peddling vehicles that pollute the atmosphere, General Motors is ending its relationship with gasoline and diesel. This morning, the American automotive giant announced that it is working toward an all-electric, zero-emissions future. That starts with two new, fully electric models next year—then at least 18 more by 2023. That product onslaught puts the company at the forefront of an increasingly large crowd of automakers proclaiming the age of electricity and promising to move away from gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles. In recent months, Volvo, Aston Martin, and Jaguar Land Rover have announced similar moves. GM’s declaration, though, is particularly noteworthy because it’s among the very largest automakers on the planet. It sold 10 million cars last year, ranging from pickups to SUVs to urban runabouts. “General Motors believes the future is all-electric,” says Mark Reuss, the company’s head of product. “We are far along in our plan to lead the way to that future world.” Reuss did not give a date for the death knell of the GM gas- or diesel-powered car, saying the transition will happen at different speeds in different markets and regions. The new all-electric models will be a mix of battery electric cars and fuel cell-powered vehicles. To be sure, GM’s sudden jolt of electricity is planned with its shareholders in mind. The Trump Administration may be moving to roll back fuel efficiency requirements in the US, but the rest of the world is insisting on an electric age.
By Herman K. Trabish for Utility Drive. California - Electrifying the transportation sector is no easy task. But, as with many innovations occurring in the power sector, California is leading the way. The California Public Utilities Commission recently approved two rounds of pilot proposals to electrify transportation from the state’s investor-owned utilities (IOUs). These pilots will cost a combined $1.3 billion and go beyond Gov. Jerry Brown (D)’s plan to have 1.5 million zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) on the road by 2025. The pilot projects would cover the gamut of possible ways to boost electric vehicle deployment including rate designs, smart charger buildout, public education efforts, and help utilities avoid upgrade costs, said Jim Lazar, senior advisor for the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP).
By Oscar Reyes for Other Words - While Europe races toward electric vehicles, U.S. automakers are actually trying to make cars less efficient. The French government recently announced a plan to ban sales of new gas-powered cars by 2040. Not to be outdone, the UK government is now rolling out a similar plan of its own. These plans sound shockingly radical, but in fact many analysts think those transitions will happen anyway. For instance, the Dutch bank ING recently predicted that all the cars sold in Europe will be electric by 2030. More conservative estimates put it at 2050. Either way, most experts now see this change on the horizon. Electric vehicles — or EVs — are already more efficient than their gas-powered counterparts, and could soon become cheaper too. High-end models already outperform conventional engines for speed and acceleration. Yet potential buyers will continue to be wary as long as the range of batteries remains small, and the network of charging points — think gas stations for electric cars — remains patchy. Rapidly developing technologies could help overcome this “range anxiety,” as the distance between charges could rise from around 100 miles to over 400 in the next decade.
By Leslie Kaufman for Inside Climate News. California - In an important real-world test of whether electric vehicles could play a bigger role in backing up the green power grid of the future, a group of San Francisco-area drivers showed that they were willing and even eager to adjust their charging times for the right financial incentives. The small but sophisticated pilot test that took place over 18 months. During that time, BMW asked owners of its electric cars if they would be willing to delay recharging them by an hour on the company's cue. An app notified the owners when a delay was coming, and they could opt out if they needed to charge at that time. "Eighteen months later, I can unequivocally state that participation was transparent, hassle-free and mind-numbingly dull to the point that I mostly forgot about it," one participant, John Higham, wrote in a first person account of his experience for Inside EVs.
By Lee Camp for Redacted Tonight. Redacted Tonight host Lee Camp has the latest on an impending crisis robots are causing. As jobs are rapidly becoming automated, what will it mean the society of workers made of flesh and blood and not controlled by a processor? Robots are climbing the ladder and will soon take over more mortal jobs. Though it may not be hard to imagine that cashiers will disappear, with self check out already around the corner, there are also white collar jobs at risk. With this imminent job loss, what on Earth can we do as a society to take on skyrocketing unemployment? Lee gets into why the growth of artificial intelligence doesn't necessarily mean the end of the world if we harness these changes the right way. Then to Europe.