December 5, 2023

On March 27, 2023, UAW President Shawn Fain chaired the 2023 Special Election Collective Bargaining Conference in Detroit, Michigan.

Rebecca Cook | Reuters

DETROIT — United Auto Workers leaders may not be able to do so until the union’s concerns about the auto industry’s transition to all-electric vehicles are addressed, according to a letter Tuesday from UAW President Sean Fein to union workers. Will refuse to support President Joe Biden for re-election. .

Fein, who was elected union president in March, said the UAW wants a “just transition” for workers. That’s not the case right now, he argues, as automakers invest billions of dollars, backed by taxpayer dollars, from conventional vehicles to electric vehicles.

“The federal government is pouring billions of dollars into the EV transition with no strings attached and no promises to workers,” Fein said in a message obtained by CNBC. “The EV transition faces the prospect of becoming a race to the bottom.” Serious risks. We want to see the support of the national leadership for this before we make any commitments.”

How to convert traditional auto workers to new jobs in electric vehicles has been a major focus of the UAW for years. A 2018 study by the union found that mass adoption of electric vehicles could cost the UAW 35,000 jobs, but the union recently said that number could be lower.

The UAW has historically supported Democrats, but former President Donald Trump gained notable support from blue-collar auto workers during his presidential campaign.

Fein said in Tuesday’s letter that “a re-election of Donald Trump as president would be a disaster,” noting that unions need to “get our members organized and support a political program that supports workers, climate and democracy in order Realized for the working class.”

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in front of a Made in America car background and the United Auto Workers (UAW) logo as he speaks about protecting America during a campaign event in Warren, Michigan, USA New Offers of Employment, September 9, 2020.

Leah Millis | Reuters

Biden’s campaign did not immediately respond for comment.

Biden has been a staunch supporter of unions during his presidency, but in recent years automakers have increased their investments in states with “right to work” laws.

Fein’s letter, first reported detroit newsnearly two weeks after he said the union would “stand behind our candidates” in 2024.

The messaging is far more political than the union, which has backed Biden as former leaders and company officials face federal corruption investigations.

Fein and other newly elected union leaders are campaigning as the union’s reform candidates who will be more vocal and aggressive with their members.

“Right now, we’re focused on making sure our members, our families, and our community make the EV transition right,” Fain wrote. “Once we secure the future for this industry and the workers who make it work, we’re ready to talk politics.”

In the letter, Fein singled out Detroit automakers’ recent announcements of plant closures and EV-related idling that have “turned life upside down” for workers. Most notably, Stellantis idled a Jeep factory in Illinois earlier this year, citing the need to cut costs for investing in electric vehicles.

Fain also pointed to wage rates at the recently opened Ultium Cells LLC battery plant near Lordstown, Ohio — a joint venture battery plant. General Motors and LG Energy Solution – compared to traditional car assembly plants.

Ultium says hourly workers are currently paid between $16 and $22 an hour, including full benefits, incentives and tuition assistance. By comparison, traditional hourly workers at GM plants can earn more than $32 an hour for UAW members.

The joint venture battery facility is seen as key to the UAW’s growth and increased membership as automakers such as General Motors transition to electric vehicles, which require less traditional labor and parts than internal combustion engine vehicles.

“The situation in Lordstown and the current state of the transition to electric vehicles is unacceptable,” Fein said. “We want those in power to act to make it right. I want to make sure our employees are armed and ready to use the same tone and message.”