About 1,100 workers at General Motors' joint-venture battery plant in northeast Ohio got a raise starting Monday. On Sunday afternoon, the UAW and Ultium Cells LLC confirmed that the union-represented workforce at the plant near Lordstown, Ohio, ratified an interim wage increase by an acceptance vote of 97.6%.
The agreement, reached late last week, gives an immediate pay increase averaging 25% to all current Ultium Cells hourly employees. That means for someone at starting wage of $16.50 an hour, it is now increased to a little more than $20 an hour. In addition to the hourly rate boost, all eligible employees will receive back pay for every hour worked since Dec.
23, when the workforce chose to unionize. Any current employee who has worked since that date can get $3,000 to $7,000 in back pay based on hours worked. "There is still a lot of work ahead in the bargaining process, including a wage package which will not only be life changing for the hourly workforce, but transform our work from ‘just a job’ to a career," Josh Ayers, chairman of UAW Local 1112, which represents the hourly workers at the plant, said in a statement.
"Ultium Cells can and should be a highly desirable place to work." Ultium Cells is the joint venture owned by GM and battery maker LG Energy Solution. It makes battery cells for the EV batteries GM uses in its new EVs powered by the Ultium propulsion system. That includes the GMC Hummer EV, Cadillac Lyriq, Chevrolet Silverado EV and Chevrolet Blazer EV, which started shipping to dealers late last month. The hourly workforce at Ultium Cells voted to unionize the plant near Lordstown, Ohio, in December after the union and the company spent months at odds over the organizing process. Ultium Ohio Plant Director Kareem Maine said the vote to ratify the interim wage increase reinforces that Ultium and the union are making progress toward a comprehensive agreement, "which will lead to a meaningful contract for our team members.
This interim wage increase is a positive first step in the right direction.” The UAW International said in a statement the interim wage increase passed by a vote of 895 to 22. It added that negotiations for a complete first contract will continue. “UAW members at Ultium are proving that we can raise standards at the electric vehicle facilities coming on line across America,” said UAW President Shawn Fain in a statement.
“This agreement is an important step forward, but it’s only the first step. We will keep fighting at Ultium and all EV plants to win the same strong pay and safety standards that generations of autoworkers have won at GM, Ford and Stellantis.” Fain has been critical of joint ventures, which he sees as a strategy whereby a company can circumvent the union's negotiated wages and benefits in its national contract by starting a new business — the joint venture — with a new workforce. Utlium Cell's wages and working conditions have been contentious during negotiations.
The bargaining team traveled to Washington, D.C., earlier this summer to talk to policymakers "about issues such as exposure to chemicals that are not yet regulated by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and how employees are getting sick and passing out," Fain said during a Facebook Live presentation earlier this summer. He has advocated pulling that workforce into the national agreement the union has with GM, Ford and Stellantis so that hourly workers at Ultium Cells get similar pay and benefits.
A spokesman for the UAW said Fain's position has not changed in that he continues to seek agreements with battery makers that are on par with the national agreement in terms of pay, safety and other benefits. On Friday, during a Facebook Live presentation, Fain again said, "To Ultium and Genera Motors, this wage increase is just a start.
These battery plant workers deserve the same wages and benefits that all our members have fought for ... they deserve nothing less." Separately, the UAW is renegotiating its national contract that covers some 150,000 UAW members across the Detroit Three. The current contract expires at 11:59 p.m. on Sept.
14. Industry experts have said any lucrative agreement at this Ultium plant likely signals that Ultium's two other plants — one being built in Spring Hill, Tennessee, and the other in Lansing — will likely also vote yes for union representation. All three Ultium plants will be near GM assembly plants, which are already union-represented.
GM will build a fourth battery plant in New Carlisle, which is about 15 miles west of South Bend, Indiana, with partner Samsung SDI, due to open in 2026. More:UAW members practice picketing: As deadline nears, autoworkers are 'ready to strike' More:UAW says authorization for strike against Detroit 3 overwhelmingly approved: What's next Contact Jamie L.
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