Workers at an electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant in Ohio voted Friday to join the United Automobile Workers union, a milestone in the auto industry’s transition from producing gas to electric cars.
The vote at Ultium Cells—a joint venture between General Motors and a South Korean battery manufacturer—was 710 to 16, according to the union. The National Labor Relations Board is expected to certify the vote.
Labor experts told the Detroit Free Press that the election results were unsurprising given the location of the Ultium factory and the strong pro-union strain among GM workers. Still, it’s a major win in a larger battle: making sure that as workers transition to green jobs, they keep labor protections. (Tesla, the largest electric vehicle manufacturer in the US, is also the only large US auto-maker that’s not unionized.)
Electric vehicle manufacturing workers tend to be paid lower than their counterparts at other auto factories, the New York Times reports, and, without government subsidies, the transition to electric vehicles could cut auto industry jobs. While President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act does offer tax credits for electric vehicles produced entirely in the United States, it does not specifically incentivize the creation of union jobs in electric vehicle manufacturing.
“As the auto industry transitions to electric vehicles, new workers entering the auto sector at plants like Ultium are thinking about their value and worth,” UAW president Ray Curry said in a statement. “This vote shows that they want to be a part of maintaining the high standards and wages that UAW members have built in the auto industry.”
President Biden, despite working to halt a rail strike last week, issued a pro-union statement today in favor of the Ultium workers. “By rebuilding our infrastructure and our manufacturing of electric vehicle batteries and semi-conductors, these jobs will bring our supply chains back home and tackle the climate crisis at the same time,” he said. “In my administration, American and union workers can and will lead the world in manufacturing once again.”