The United Auto Workers has reservations about the auto industry’s push into electric vehicles — and it raised them directly with the Biden administration — UAW President Rory Gamble said during a webinar organized by the Automotive Press Association in Detroit.
Gamble said the union knows technology is changing rapidly, and it is willing to embrace the shift. But at the same time, the union has a duty “to protect our members’ standard of living,” he said, which is one of the reasons the UAW would prefer to learn more about the specifics of their future from companies, such as General Motors.
GM has pledged to be carbon neutral by carbon and stop building vehicles with internal combustion engines by 2035. “We’d like to see more detail,” said Gamble, as he modified an earlier comment during the conference in which he suggested GM was being too aggressive.
Union wants more insight into EV plans
The union is not going to stand in the way of changing technology, he said.
The biggest question is whether the market is going to accept battery electric vehicles, said Gamble, adding plans should include a mixture of vehicles with a broader variety of propulsion systems.
Gamble added he was old enough to remember what happened after the oil crisis of the 1970s when Detroit carmakers shifted suddenly to building smaller cars that did not appeal to consumers.
“I remember that. Our members were the ones who suffered,” said Gamble, adding the UAW is in the midst of updating of a study it did in 2018 on the potential impact of electric vehicles on the UAW’s future membership.
Working with the Biden administration
In addition, Gamble said he relayed his concerns about jobs and maintaining strong auto industry during the switch to electric vehicles directly to the Biden administration. With the Biden administration, Gamble added he can now pick up a phone and get someone on the line to discuss critical issues. “There is a lot of dialogue,” he said.
The union did not have that with the Trump administration, he said.
Gamble also noted the union is working with the administration and the Detroit’s automakers to carry on the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced manufacturers to close their factories in the spring.
Stellantis has already opened a vaccine distribution site in a medical facility adjacent to its assembly plant in Belvidere, Illinois, west of Chicago, and GM and Ford Motor Co. are making plans to vaccinate their employees. Autoworkers are essential to economy, he said.
While it continues to insist on practices to keep workers safe, such as wearing masks and maintaining social distancing, Gamble does not want vaccination to become a condition of employment. “We have a lot of anti-vaxxers,” he noted.