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What does President Biden’s support for unions mean for the EV industry?

The relationship between labor unions and e-mobility is a complex one. In Germany, fears that the transition to EVs would result in job losses contributed to the fall of VW CEO Herbert Diess. Here in the US, EVs were a major issue in the recent United Auto Workers strike—autoworkers feared that the Big Three would use electrification as an excuse to transfer production to non-union shops. GM and Ford agreed to allow battery plants to be unionized, but spitefully announced a lose/lose strategy of cutting back on their electrification plans.

Against this backdrop, President Biden doubled down on his pro-union policy by endorsing the UAW’s efforts to unionize Tesla and Toyota. Biden recently spoke to UAW workers in Belvidere, Illinois, hailing the tentative agreements that ended the 45-day strike. “I want this type of contract for all autoworkers,” Biden said. The president told reporters that he “absolutely” supports the UAW’s efforts to unionize Tesla and Toyota workers.

In response to Biden’s remarks, Toyota said, “The decision to unionize is ultimately made by our team members.” Tesla, of course, did not comment (although its CEO may yet make an obscene remark on the platform formerly known as Twitter).

Union workers now represent only 10% of the US workforce, but they represent a key constituency for the Democratic president, particularly in states such as Michigan. Biden’s support of the UAW during the strike is widely expected to result in an endorsement from the union.

The Big Three, having been forced to agree to wage hikes to settle the strike, fear being at a competitive disadvantage against other automakers with plants in Southern “right to work” states. However, those (mostly foreign-owned) carmakers are now in the union’s sights. Shawn Fain, the UAW’s aggressive president, has previously said the union would continue trying to organize workforces at nonunion US plants. Some expect Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky plant to be a focal point.

Another target is Tesla, which has long taken a firmly anti-union stance. Recently, the UAW tried and failed to convince workers at Tesla’s Fremont, California factory to hold a vote on organizing.

Source: Reuters

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