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UAW launched organizing drive at Ultium Cells’ Ohio plant before production began in August.

UAW Wins Landslide Vote Among Ultium Cells Workers

LG Chem, the Korean company behind LG Energy Solutions, has a history of opposing union organizing. But GM, the other half of the Ultium Cells joint venture, stood aside during the vote and even publicly supported employees joining a union.

The UAW claims a sweeping victory in its efforts to organize employees at the new Ultium Cells battery plant in northeastern Ohio.

The National Labor Relations Board says the results of the election held over two days last week showed employees voting 710-16 to join the union.

“Our entire union welcomes our latest members from Ultium,” says UAW President Ray Curry. “As the auto industry transitions to electric vehicles, new workers entering the auto sector at plants like Ultium are thinking about their value and worth. This vote shows that they want to be a part of maintaining the high standards and wages that UAW members have built in the auto industry.”

Ultium logo.jpgUltium Cells, a joint venture between General Motors and battery maker LG Energy Solution, says in a statement it respects “the decision of our Ohio workforce supporting representation by the UAW.

“We look forward to a positive working relationship with the UAW,” the statement adds.

LG Chem, the Korean company behind LG Energy Solutions, has a history of opposing union organizing. But GM, the other half of the Ultium JV, stood aside during the vote and publicly supported employees’ right to vote on whether to join a union.

Outside groups had erected billboards in the vicinity of the battery plant in Lordstown, 35 miles (55 km) southeast of Cleveland, highlighting the recent scandals within the union, which led to jail sentences for a dozen union officials and officers.

Losing the Lordstown vote would have been a crushing embarrassment for the UAW, which wants to organize workers at other battery plants planned by GM, Ford, Stellantis and other automakers. The Detroit Free Press reports GM expects the UAW to successfully organize Ultium Cells plants under construction in Spring Hill, TN, and Lansing, MI.

The UAW for decades was part the Lordstown community when GM operated a huge vehicle-assembly complex there, closing it in 2019 after a bitter fight with the UAW. But the corruption and embezzlement scandals within the union in recent years undercut other high-profile organizing drives at non-union plants operated by Fuyao Glass in southwestern Ohio and Volkswagen and Nissan assembly plants in Tennessee and Mississippi, respectively, in recent years.

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Batteries for GMC Hummer among first products at Ultium Cells plant in Ohio.


Before the vote at Ultium, reformers put the UAW on a new footing by breaking the stranglehold of the Administration Caucus, which had run the union for more than seven decades.

In the first direct election of top union officers, UAW members selected five members of the Members United slate plus one independent candidate to serve on the union’s 14-member executive board. Three other seats will be decided in a runoff and the reformers are poised to take two of the three seats at stake, including the UAW presidency now held by Curry. Contract negotiations will take place next year.

Dave Green, who will be taking over as regional director for Ohio and Indiana following his election as an independent, says work at the Ultium plant is difficult. Workers at the new battery plants could face long-term threats to their health, he says. “They understand they need a union,” says Green.

Union activity at the Ohio plant had begun even before production started in August. Support from only a simple majority of voters, instead of the entire workforce, was needed for the factory to be organized.

The UAW petitioned the NLRB for the vote last month when GM declined to recognize the union after a “card check,” in which more than half of Ultium employees turned in cards saying they wanted to belong the union.

GM Chair and CEO Mary Barra says negotiations with the UAW will be important to the company’s push into electric vehicles.

Speaking last week with members of the Automotive Press Association in Detroit, Barra waved aside a questioner who suggested unionization of the Lordstown employees would make it more expensive to operate than the non-union battery plants operated by other companies.

“The key is to make sure the plant is competitive, which certainly can be done with unionized labor,” Barra says. UAW members have been critical in boosting the overall quality of GM’s vehicles during the pandemic, she says.

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