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UAW Petitions for NLRB for Election at GM’s Ultium Cells Plant

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In a sign of the escalating labor battle between General Motors’ new Ultium battery plant in Ohio and the United Auto Workers, the union filed a petition for election with the Cleveland office of the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of approximately 900 workers at Ultium Cells LLC in Warren Ohio.

Ultium Cells assembly line inspection REL
Ultium Cells in Ohio declined to access the UAW card check results.

“A majority of Ultium workers have signed cards authorizing the UAW to represent them,” said UAW President Ray Curry.  

However, Ultium declined to accept the pro-union card check. The card check is a process used by the union that can allow it to skip the formality of an election, if an overwhelming majority of employees turn in a card saying they want UAW representation.

“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. Make no mistake: whether it is by card check or union election, these workers will be members of the UAW,” said Curry.

According to the UAW, Ultium previously indicated a willingness to recognize the majority will of the workers based on authorization cards but has now backtracked. The process is important as GM and LG Energy are building three more plants for battery-cell production, including the next one set to come online in Spring Hill, Tennessee.

UAW President Curry at 38th convention
UAW President Ray Curry said despite the refusal of card check results, “these workers will be members of the UAW.”

GM spokesman Dan Flores said in an email GM would not have any comment on the UAW petition. Ultium Cells, which is responsible for management of the Ohio plant, did not respond to an email request for comment.

Slow ramp up pinching GM’s EV production

Last week, CEO Mary Barra said during a conference call with investors GM will miss its previously announced EV production targets by at least six months, GM had said it expected to build 400,000 EV units by the end of 2023 as production for the Lordstown battery plant ramped up.

But it has taken “a little longer than expected” to bring in the workers at the new battery plant in Warren, Ohio. complicating production of the Ultium batteries GM needs, Barra said.

Ultium Cells assembly line REL
The company and the union have engaged in a quiet tug of war over the plant for the past several months.

The company and the union have engaged in a quiet tug of war over the plant for the past several months. The plant is located on a site once occupied by General Motors production facilities, and unions have long been part of the fabric of life throughout Northeastern Ohio where the plant is located.

The Lordstown assembly plant GM phased out in 2019 over the objections of the union is now occupied by fledgling Lordstown Motors, which is having its own challenges ramping up production.

During the past several months, the company participated in meetings and discussions with the UAW about a process for certifying the UAW’s majority status without going through an NLRB election, according to the union.

“We had hoped Ultium would have done the right thing so we can get on with the business of bargaining and addressing the serious health and safety issues in the plant,” said George Goranitis, a Lead in the Electrode Department and one of the Ultium employees supporting the union.

“This decision by Ultium reminds every one of us why we need to form our union as the company does not care about our interests. We are ready to win our election.”

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