Autoworkers union accuses GM joint venture of denying access to organize

Members and supporters of the striking United Auto Workers attend a speech by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders outside General Motors’ Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant on September 25, 2019 in Detroit.

Michael Wayland / CNBC

DETROIT – The United Auto Workers union is accusing a new General Motors joint venture of denying workers access to hold a preliminary organizing vote.

UAW Vice President Terry Dittes, in a letter to union leaders obtained Tuesday by CNBC, said leaders of the joint venture between GM and LG Energy Solution, called Ultium Cells, have “flatly rejected” the union’s proposal. of a “card verification agreement”. organize.

Dittes said the agreement would allow union officials to enter the joint venture’s battery plant in Ohio to collect organization cards, as one of the first steps in establishing UAW representation at the facility.

“This process has been agreed to by many employers for a calm and peaceful recognition of the UAW,” Dittes said in the letter. “Ultium flatly rejected those simple basic features of a card check recognition that we proposed.”

The UAW did not immediately respond for comment. GM referred questions to an Ultium spokeswoman, who confirmed that the company has spoken with the UAW about the process, but no agreement has been reached.

“The UAW has expressed interest in representing a portion of the Ultium Cells workforce and we have had initial discussions about a Neutrality Agreement that could allow for a card verification process at our Warren, Ohio facility,” said the UAW spokeswoman. Ultium, Brooke Waid, in a statement. “We support, and have always supported, the process that allows our people to determine their own representation status, which is a matter of personal choice.”

The dispute comes amid a broader union organizing effort across the country, as workers at major corporations such as Starbucks and Amazon have sought to establish representation.

GM leaders said when announcing the plant in 2019 that any organization at the company’s joint venture facilities would rely on workers to vote. GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra said the jobs are expected to pay lower wages than higher ones at the automaker’s assembly plants, yet they will be “very high-paying jobs.”

Ultium Cells has announced three US facilities, although none have started operations. The Lordstown plant, valued at $2.3 billion, is expected to start production in August. It is expected to create 1,100 jobs in Northeast Ohio. GM closed its nearby Lordstown assembly plant in 2019, eliminating 1,700 UAW-represented hourly jobs.

Dittes said in the letter to members that the union has launched an organizing drive for the facility, but additional details “cannot be disclosed or made public at this time.”

“We will represent employees there and at all future Ultium sites currently under construction,” said Dittes. “We will not be slow to organize workers who want to join our Union!”

Joint venture battery facilities are seen as crucial for the union to grow and add members as automakers like GM transition to electric vehicles. The union’s organizing efforts also come ahead of a crucial leadership vote this summer, as well as next year’s collective bargaining with GM, Ford Motor and Stellantis.

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