By Joseph White and David Shepardson
TOLEDO, Ohio/Washington (Reuters) – The United Auto Workers will seek faster recognition from General Motors that does not require a vote to represent hourly workers at the growing U.S. battery-making plant, the union said Friday.
UAW President Ray Carey, speaking at an event in Toledo, Ohio where General Motors announced it would invest $760 million, said the union would seek “card verification” permission that bypasses secret ballot voting.
Under this process, the majority of hourly factory workers could simply sign union-supporting cards, and once the election was certified would not be necessary.
Last month, the first Ultium battery plant from General Motors (NYSE: NYSE:) and joint-venture LG Energy Solution began production in Lordstown, Ohio.
Carey said 90% of workers at the factory have signed union-supporting cards. Curry said “Ultium did not agree” to recognize the UAW without a vote.
Ultium on Friday did not support the UAW’s proposal, but said it “respects the right of workers to union and the efforts of the UAW or any other union to organize battery cell manufacturing workers at our manufacturing sites.”
The joint venture said it would comply with federal labor law that “protects the right of our employees to decide the question of union representation through voluntary democratic elections.”
The 2.8 million-square-foot Ultium Cells LLC plant in Lordstown is the first of at least four US plants planned to supply GM’s electric vehicles. The factory employs more than 800 employees and is preparing to increase production.
GM has previously expressed support for the UAW’s efforts to regulate Ultium battery plants, but has not endorsed the “card check.”
In May, President Joe Biden, on a trip to South Korea, expressed support for workers seeking to create a joint battery factory consortium. All three major Detroit automakers have battery factories working with Korean partners.
“Each joint venture producing electric car batteries will be strengthened through collective bargaining relationships with American unions,” Biden said.
Last month, General Motors and LG Energy said they were considering a site in New Carlisle, Indiana, for a fourth battery plant in the United States.
They’re already building a $2.6 billion battery cell plant in Lansing, Michigan, scheduled to open in late 2024, and a $2.3 billion plant in Tennessee to be completed in 2023.