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UAW Files to Have a Union Election at Ultium Cells Plant

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Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

The United Auto Workers has filed to have a union election on behalf of about 900 workers at the Ultium Cells LLC plant in Warren, Ohio. online news

The filing, made Monday with the Cleveland office of the National Labor Relations Board, comes after a back-and-forth on whether Ultium would recognize the union through a card check process instead of an election.

UAW President Ray Curry said in a statement that while most Ultium workers have signed cards to authorize UAW representation, Ultium, General Motors Co.’s joint-venture battery company with LG Energy Solution, declined to recognize the UAW as the employees’ union.

“By refusing to recognize their majority will, Ultium — which is a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solution — has decided to ignore democracy and delay the recognition process,” Curry said. “Make no mistake: whether it is by card check or union election, these workers will be members of the UAW.”

Ultium has repeatedly stressed it wanted an election certified by the National Labor Relations Board for the union to be recognized, which experts say elongates the process.

The UAW said Ultium had “previously indicated a willingness to recognize the majority will of the workers based on authorization cards,” and met with the union in the last several months to discuss the “process for certifying the UAW’s majority status without going through an NLRB election.”

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“Despite the UAW engaging in good faith discussions, it is clear now that the company’s strategy was to delay and deny workers union representation for as long as possible,” UAW Region 2B Director Wayne Blanchard said in a statement. “The UAW filed the petition today so workers can get on with forming their union without any further delay.”

In August, workers at the Ultium plant in northeast Ohio authorized for a strike in a bid to get the company to recognize the UAW union as their bargaining agent. Overall, 94% of voting workers approved the strike recognition measure, which experts said was an “old-school” method of seeking the company’s acknowledgement.

Late last month at an event celebrating a major investment for the electric vehicle work at GM’s Toledo transmission plant, UAW President Ray Curry said the union would continue to have conversations with Ultium about having a voluntary recognition through the card-check process.

“We believe that GM, the UAW and Ultium can be successful and reach an agreement on an opportunity for those workers there,” he said at the time. “Strike is always the last alternative that takes place, and we’d like to be successful there as we have in other locations.”

Since Ultium is a joint-venture company owned by GM and LG, workers are not included in the national UAW contract with GM, which expires next year. Organizing the Ultium battery plants and other Detroit Three battery operations is crucial for the UAW’s future in the electric vehicle transition.

The Ultium plant in Warren is the first of four plants to start making battery cells for GM EVs. Two other plants, in Spring Hill, Tennessee, and in Delta Township near Lansing, are under construction. GM and LG are looking at New Carlisle, Indiana, as the location for their fourth battery plant in the U.S.

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