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Autoworkers union accuses GM joint venture of denying access to organization


Striking United Auto Workers members and supporters 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 recruitment vote.

UAW Vice President Terry Dittes, in a letter to union members obtained by CNBC on Tuesday, said executives of the joint venture between GM and LG Energy Solution, called Ultium Cells, “categorically rejected” the proposal. from the syndicate of a “card verification agreement”. assess interest in unionization.

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

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

The UAW did not immediately respond to comments. GM referred questions to a spokeswoman for Ultium, who confirmed that the company had discussed the process with the UAW, but no agreement had been reached.

“The UAW has expressed an interest in representing some of the Ultium Cells workforce and we have had initial discussions around a neutrality agreement that may allow for a card verification process at our facility. Warren, Ohio,” Ultium spokeswoman Brooke Waid said in a statement. “We are, and always have been, supportive of the process that allows our people to determine their own representational status, which is a matter of personal choice.”

The assertion comes amid a broader labor organizing effort across the country, as workers at big companies such as Starbucks and Amazon have sought to establish representation.

GM executives said when the plant was announced in 2019 that any organization at the company’s joint venture facilities would be up to the workers to vote. GM CEO Mary Barra said the positions are expected to pay less than top salaries at the automaker’s assembly plants, but will be “very well-paying jobs.”

Ultium Cells announced three facilities in the United States, although none have started operations. The $2.3 billion Lordstown plant is expected to begin 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 hourly jobs represented by the UAW.

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

“We will represent employees there and at all future Ultium sites currently under construction,” Dittes said. “We will not be slowed down in organizing 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 such as GM shift to electric vehicles. The union’s organizing efforts also come ahead of a crucial leadership vote this summer as well as labor negotiations next year with GM, Ford Motor and Stellantis.

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