General Motors unveiled Ultium, its new modular platform and battery system, on March 4, 2020 at its Technology Center campus in Warren, Michigan.
Photos by Steve Fecht for General Motors
Detroit – General Motors’ Ultium Cells and the United Auto Workers union said Thursday that the company has agreed to raise wages for workers at its Ohio battery plant by an average of 25%.
Ultium, a joint venture with LG Energy Solutions, is critical to the automaker’s efforts to add battery supplies to its growing fleet of electric vehicles. The deal is a major victory for the union as it is the first large organized battery factory in the country.
The UAW and Ultium have been negotiating an agreement for the plant’s roughly 1,100 workers since most workers agreed to organize with the union last year. The union had previously argued that battery workers should be paid the same as their traditional counterparts who assemble engines and cars.
Currently, Ultium production workers are paid about $20-$25 an hour, and maintenance workers are paid about $25-$34.60 an hour. The union said wage increases would amount to $3 to $4 an hour. Even with the raise, their wages are still below the $32-plus an hour that traditional UAW assembly workers at Detroit automakers make.
The tentative agreement, which must be approved by workers, is not a complete agreement. It deals with worker wages, but not other dynamics and processes.If approved, workers would be retroactively paid $3,000 to $7,000 in wages
“While the entire ‘first’ agreement is being negotiated, the committee is still working hard to negotiate working conditions, health and safety, seniority rights, addressing other concerns raised by members, and future wage increases throughout the term of the agreement,” said UAW Local 1112 President Josh Ayers said in a statement.
The deal differs from the ongoing nationwide negotiations involving about 150,000 workers between the UAW and General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis.
The Ultium Cells LLC plant, a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions, began producing batteries in August 2022 in Warren, Ohio.
The Ultium plant in Ohio, which began production in August, is the first of at least four U.S. battery factories in a joint venture with General Motors. These factories are expected to employ thousands of workers in the coming years. Ford, Stellantis, and other automakers announced similar plants, each of which had to be organized separately by unions, in addition to other Ultium plants.
“This agreement is an important and meaningful step as we continue to negotiate in good faith and cooperatively with the UAW to reach a comprehensive contract,” Kareem Maine, director of Ultium’s Ohio plant, said in a statement. Members are at the heart of our business, and we are proud to have reached a temporary agreement on pay increases that prioritize our incredible workforce.”
The membership approval vote for the UAW is expected to close on August 27. If approved, the temporary raise will be retroactive, with current hourly employees receiving back pay for each hour worked since Dec. 23. Any current employee who has worked since Dec. 23 can then receive a one-time payment of $3,000 to $7,000 based on hours worked.