GM says UAW ‘well positioned’ to represent workers at battery JV

FILE PHOTO: Logo of GM atop the company headquarters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – General Motors Co said on Tuesday the United Auto Workers union is “well positioned” to represent more than 2,300 workers at new U.S. joint venture battery plants with Korea’s LG Chem.

The UAW said it looks forward to starting discussions with GM on the “joint venture to produce batteries in Ohio and Tennessee so workers will have a voice at the table in order to create good paying union jobs and benefits.”

The UAW wants U.S. automakers to recognize the union at joint-venture battery facilities. The union has said it represents about 48,500 U.S. workers at GM, though the automaker says about 49% of its U.S. workforce, or 46,000 workers, were represented by the UAW, as of the end of 2020.

Ford Motor Co last week announced a similar planned battery venture with SK Innovation.

President Joe Biden went to a Ford plant in Michigan last Tuesday and told automakers “we need you to deepen your partnership with the UAW.”

GM said both the company and the joint venture, known as Ultium Cells LLC. “respect workers’ right to unionize and the efforts of the UAW to organize battery cell manufacturing workers in Ohio and Tennessee at our joint venture sites.”

GM added that it believes the UAW, “given their historic and constructive relationship in the automotive industry, would be well positioned to represent the workforce.”

In April, GM and LG Chem unit LG Energy Solution said they would build a second U.S. battery cell manufacturing plant, revealing plans for a $2.3 billion factory in Spring Hill, Tennessee.

LG Chem and the White House did not immediately comment on Tuesday.

The UAW has criticized GM for announcing a $1 billion investment in Mexico to build EVs, and Ford for opting to build some EVs in Mexico rather than in Ohio.

Biden also urged automakers not to build zero-emission vehicles abroad for U.S. consumers.

“We need automakers and other companies to keep investing here in America and not take the benefits of our public investments and expand electric vehicles and battery manufacturing abroad,” Biden said.

The UAW said last week Ford has a “moral obligation” to make sure battery plant jobs are good-paying union jobs. The company said that will be determined by the joint venture.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Dan Grebler)