Workers at E.V. Battery Plant in Ohio Vote to Unionize

Josh Bivens, an author of the Economic Policy Institute report, said in an interview that he was pleasantly surprised that the administration managed to pass strong incentives for domestic production of electric vehicles. But whether the incentives will lead to good jobs, he added, is an open question.

“There’s no real explicit subsidy or incentive to make these unionized or even high-wage,” Mr. Bivens said.

Under the union’s contract with the Big Three automakers, veteran rank-and-file production workers make about $32 per hour, though new hires start at a substantially lower wage and work their way up to that amount over several years.

By contrast, companies that make electric vehicles or their components typically pay workers hourly wages in the midteens to the mid-20s.

The union campaign at the Ohio plant, known as Ultium Cells, represents one of the easier tests facing U.A.W. organizers at an electric vehicle facility in the coming years. The plant is in Warren, within a mile or two of a unionized General Motors facility in Lordstown that operated for decades before the company idled it and then sold it in 2019, making local residents familiar with the benefits of union membership.

And while Ultium did not agree to a so-called card check process that could have bypassed a union election, it also did not wage an anti-union campaign seeking to dissuade workers from unionizing, according to a U.A.W. spokeswoman. Mary T. Barra, the General Motors chief executive, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television last week that the company was “very supportive” of the plant’s unionization.

It is less clear how successful the union will be at organizing other new electric vehicle plants, such as an Ultium facility being built in Tennessee, or three factories being built jointly by Ford Motor and the South Korean battery maker SK Innovation in Kentucky and Tennessee, where the political culture is less hospitable to unions. Battery packs, which can cost around $15,000, are by far the most expensive component of an electric vehicle powertrain, the key parts and systems that power a car.

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