Senator Bernie Sanders pledges support for UAW efforts at Lordstown's Ultium plant
The United Autoworkers Union wants to make sure that its members at the Ultium Cells plant in Lordstown and elsewhere benefit from more than $1 billion in taxpayer-funded tax credits that the federal government is offering to promote the production of “green” electric vehicles.
Recently elected UAW President Shawn Fain and union Secretary Margaret Mock made the rounds in Washington this week lobbying for support for the union from the likes of Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
In a video Tweeted by Sander’s office this week, Fain talked to the Senator about the GM’s transition from assembling cars to making EV batteries in Lordstown.
“We had a GM plant there where workers previously assembled vehicles and made $32 an hour and more,” said Fain.
The UAW leader, just elected last month, said that after GM closed its Lordstown Assembly plant in 2019, workers were given the options of relocating to another GM facility, retiring, or taking a buyout.
“After a lot of these workers moved all over the country, GM announced a joint venture with Ultium to produce batteries for their future vehicles in Lordstown,” said Fain. “Those workers hired in at $16.50 an hour and it takes seven years for them to get to full pay, which is $20 an hour.
Noting that Ultium workers are being paid nearly half as much as GM employees were before the assembly plant shutdown, Senator Sanders said; "That is, to say the least, going absolutely in the wrong direction.
Workers at the Ultium Cells plant in Lordstown, who back in December voted for representation by the UAW, have yet to reach a contract with the company.
"The companies are leaving the workers out of the profits,” said Mock. “We can't maintain the working class by rushing to the bottom or letting the companies push us to the bottom. They really should share in the profits."
"When the government is giving $35 for every kilowatt hour produced by these battery plants, in Lordstown for example,” noted Fain. “With the amount of kilowatt hours, they'll be producing when they're at full production, they'll be receiving over $1.2 billion annually in government taxpayer-funded credits. In turn, they're paying the workers half the wages they used to.
Saying that working in an automobile plant was once the gold standard when it came to wages and benefits for blue-collar workers, Sanders pledged support for the union from his office.
"The government is putting a lot of money into transitioning our economy to a non-fossil fuel economy,” said Sanders. “We certainly want to see if the government is putting tens of billions of dollars into it, we want to see the workers got a fair shake, not just the CEOs of the companies."
After meeting with Fain and Mock in Washington, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) Tweeted that Ohio new auto jobs in Ohio must be union jobs.
During a conference call on first-quarter earnings this week, GM Chair and Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra credited the company’s progress in its electric vehicle goals to rising production at Ultium Cells in Lordstown. Barra says GM expects to reach full capacity in Lordstown at the end of the year.