A Coalition Launches Pressure Campaign on Hyundai’s Electric Vehicle Plants
Focus on Hyundai Could Impact Other Automakers in Union-Hostile Territory
A coalition of labor unions and civic groups in Georgia and Alabama is initiating a pressure campaign targeting Hyundai’s electric vehicle plants and clean energy suppliers. The goal of this effort is to not only create “good union jobs” but also push the Biden administration towards fulfilling its promise to generate jobs. By concentrating on Hyundai’s shift to electric vehicles, the coalition hopes to make progress at other automakers like B.M.W. and Mercedes-Benz. These companies have manufacturing bases in union-hostile areas, similar to Hyundai.
Potential Impact on Automakers and Contract Negotiations
The campaign could raise the stakes for domestic automakers, particularly those in the midst of contract negotiations with the United Automobile Workers (U.A.W.) union. The U.A.W. is actively working to raise wages for electric vehicle suppliers, including battery manufacturers. Additionally, this effort may have political ramifications for President Biden, considering Georgia’s status as a crucial swing state in the 2024 presidential election.
Biden’s Economic Agenda and Approval Ratings
President Biden has touted the number of jobs created through his infrastructure, semiconductor, and clean energy bills. However, despite low unemployment and positive economic indicators, his overall approval ratings have suffered due to voter dissatisfaction. Some experts attribute this to last year’s inflation and subsequent interest rate hikes. Biden’s team, aware of the pressure campaign ahead of time, fully supports the coalition’s goals in Georgia.
Concerns Over Job Quality and Union Loyalty
Labor leaders have generally supported President Biden as the most pro-union president ever. However, they argue that simply creating jobs is not enough if they are low-paid, dangerous, and insecure. Union leaders are specifically concerned when such jobs are subsidized by taxpayer dollars. The United Automobile Workers, which has yet to endorse Biden, is threatening strike action over wages and benefits at electric vehicle suppliers.
Labor Demands and the Hyundai Campaign
The coalition, which includes the U.A.W., A.F.L.-C.I.O., International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and various religious, community, and environmental groups, has sent a letter to Hyundai outlining key labor demands. These demands include hiring locally, providing training programs, implementing strict safety standards, and protecting the surrounding environment. The coalition seeks a binding agreement similar to one reached with New Flyer, an electric bus maker.
Necessary Follow-Through and Potential Success
The coalition has acknowledged the limitations of community agreements compared to union contracts. While provisions in Biden’s laws favor union and worker rights, union leaders still depend on the commitment of companies and the rank and file. Labor leaders recognize the appeal of Donald J. Trump’s working-class rhetoric and the importance of addressing worker concerns to prevent their support from shifting.