The United Auto Workers strike in the United States is expected to end after the union struck a tentative deal with General Motors on Monday—following previous agreements with Ford and Stellantis—that could shape the future of electric vehicle production.
Last week’s deal [pdf] with Ford included raises of up to 150% for the lowest-paid workers, US$8.1 billion in investments toward factory renovations and new models, and a pathway for battery and EV plants to come under union agreement at commensurate pay rates. The UAW voted to ratify it on Sunday, and reached a similar agreement with Stellantis on the weekend.
Sources connected to Reuters said the tentative deal with GM includes similar terms.
The six-week-long strike has been a prominent reminder of the link between labour issues and decarbonization, with the union saying industry changes in the EV shift could threaten autoworker jobs. Earlier this month, the UAW declared a win when GM agreed to place EV battery production under the union’s national contract, reported Politico.
Reporter David Ferris wrote that in addition to higher wages and working conditions, the strike was “a shadow battle over who will wield power in battery factories that don’t yet exist.”
UAW leaders have said they do not oppose the EV shift, but raised concerns about jobs lost to automation, mechanically simpler manufacturing, and overseas suppliers. Automakers had contended they could not offer better terms while remaining competitive in a fledgling EV industry.
“We have been told for months this is impossible,” UAW president Shawn Fain said in early October. “We have been told the EV future must be a race to the bottom.”
“We called their bluff.”
The UAW strike has achieved key victories, but workers remain non-unionized at several other auto manufacturers, including Tesla Inc. Analysts say the wage hikes may raise prices for EVs from GM, Ford, and Stellantis in the near-term, but over time that competitive loss will wane.
“It’s not as catastrophic as you might think,” said Mike Ramsey, an auto analyst at the consultancy Gartner. “Everyone will have to raise their labour rates to keep up.”
So “in three to four years, it will be a wash.”
The union has also struggled in the past to extend membership to workers at several foreign auto companies with factories in the “battery belt” of southern United States, where companies like Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen operate, says Grist.
North of the U.S. border, Unifor—the union representing Canadian auto workers—is working to avoid strikes by negotiating for contracts similar to the ones in the U.S. The union reached deals with Ford and GM earlier in October, but is still negotiating with Stellantis, says Bloomberg.
As in the U.S. strikes, EVs remain among Unifor’s key issues after automakers made record investments in Canada’s battery supply chains.