One of the plants that demonstrates the complexity involved in the EV battery facility talks is the Ultium Cells LLC plant in Lordstown, Ohio, a joint venture between GM and Korea’s LG Energy Solution Ltd. The UAW represents 1,100 workers there, but because they’re employed by the Ultium JV rather than GM directly, they aren’t covered by a master labor contract the group negotiated with GM, Ford and Stellantis four years ago.
The UAW organized workers at the Ultium plant and is trying to establish a separate, first-of-its-kind deal for the employees. But even if it does, the contract won’t automatically apply to EV battery workers at other facilities without the buy-in of the automakers and their partners. Those plants will be run by different joint ventures, so the UAW has to have an organizing drive and bargain locally at each one.
Ford has plans for three battery plants with its Korean partner SK On in a joint venture called BlueOval SK, in Kentucky and Tennessee, and one with Chinese partner CATL in Michigan, starting in 2025. Stellantis will open a plant in Indiana with Samsung SDI in 2025. GM also has three more U.S. battery plants coming with Korean partners.
The UAW could secure a deal that gives Ultium workers the same pay and benefits as other GM employees, and allows union members at other facilities to transfer to the battery plant if they lose their jobs. But the group wants to avoid creating multiple contracts. It wants to put all the battery workers under its master labor contract with GM, according to two people familiar with the group’s thinking, who declined to be identified because discussions are private.