Workers at GM’s Ultium plant in Warren, Ohio have negotiated an agreement to increase their pay by an additional $3-4 an hour, about a 25% increase from current base pay. The plan covers around 1,100 workers and would go into effect immediately if ratified by a union vote in the next few days.
GM’s Ultium plant in Warren, Ohio began production one year ago but is still getting up to speed as GM prepares the imminent release of its mass-market Ultium-based EVs. Ultium is a joint-venture battery project between GM and LG, with at least three additional planned battery factories being built in the US.
The agreement comes after the United Auto Workers (UAW) poured some cold water on the EV transition by stating that Ultium jobs were expected to start at just $16/hour, rising to $20/hour after 7 years of work. This is well below the $32/hour that GM workers would have earned had the Warren/Lordstown plant not been converted to an Ultium plant.
The campaign for higher pay started in earnest after workers overwhelmingly voted to join UAW in December, with a vote of 98% in favor.
Today’s agreement would raise starting pay by $3-4 an hour, representing about a 25% increase. Workers would also get back pay, in the amount of thousands of dollars each.
UAW describes this as a “first step” towards improving pay and working conditions for Ultium workers, and vows to keep pushing for more. This agreement is described as some immediate relief while negotiations continue over working conditions.
UAW Vice President Mike Booth said the pay increase “is still far short of what these workers deserve for the level of skill their labor requires, the working conditions they must endure, and the incredible value they produce for this heavily taxpayer-subsidized employer. We have been clear with Ultium: this wage increase is just the start.”
And Ultium Ohio plant director Kareem Maine released a statement saying “this agreement is a significant and meaningful step as we continue to negotiate collaboratively and in good faith with the UAW to reach a comprehensive contract. Our team members are at the core of our business, and we’re proud to be able to reach an interim agreement for wage increases that prioritizes our incredible workforce.”
Until the Ultium unionization vote in December, US battery production had mostly been non-unionized. The largest US battery producer, Tesla, does not have union workers. There have been some unionization efforts, but those efforts have mostly met with retaliation from Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
UAW is courting other battery factories, but Ultium has been the first major plant to join. President Biden has attempted to include unions in his EV push and one of his signature pieces of legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act, offers significant incentives for companies to build EV battery manufacturing facilities in America.
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