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UPDATE Fri. 11:43 a.m.: Biden applauds Ultium workers choice for UAW

LORDSTOWN — Ultium Cell workers in Lordstown voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining the United Auto Workers by a vote of 710 to 16.

Even President Joe Biden is weighing in on the union approval vote.

“Congratulations to the newest members of the United Auto Workers at the Ultium Cells LLC EV battery plant in Warren, Ohio,” President Joe Biden said to this newspaper on Friday.

“I ran for President to rebuild the middle class. The middle class built America ä and unions built the middle class,” he continued. “My economic plan is creating good-paying jobs that you can raise a family on — many that don’t require a college degree — and provide the free and fair choice to join a union. 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. In my administration, American and union workers can and will lead the world in manufacturing once again.”

The parties have five business days to file objections to the election, according to the National Labor Relations Board. If no objections are filed, the results will be certified and the employer must begin bargaining in good faith with the union.

“Our entire union welcomes our latest members from Ultium,” said UAW President Ray Curry. “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. 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.”

UAW said Ultium previously engaged in talks with them about a process for certifying the union’s majority status without going through a National Labor Relations Board election. Ultium previously said it respects workers’ right to choose union representation and will comply with the National Labor Relations Act, which protects employees’ rights to freely decide unionization through a voluntary election conducted by the NLRB.

In September, 94 percent of Ultium Cells workers who cast ballots at the UAW Local 1112 Union Hall authorized a strike for recognition.

At that time, UAW Local 1112 President Darwin Cooper said it would be a waiting game to see if Ultium Cells would accept the results of a previous tally to measure interest in organizing under the International UAW or if the workers will strike to gain union recognition. At the time, Cooper added he doubted anybody really wants to strike.

A “recognition strike” is a way for nonunion employees at a company to try to force the employer to recognize them as a bargaining unit and negotiate a contract by refusing to come to work.

The $2.3 billion Ultium Cells plant in Lordstown is the first in operation of four either under construction or planned.

The local factory started to manufacture the battery cells in September. Batteries manufactured here will go into vehicles with GM’s Ultium batteries, including Hummer EVs, Chevrolet Silverado EV pickups and the Cadillac Lyriq electric SUV.

Now at 900 workers, the EV battery plant expects to employ over 1,100 by the time it ramps up to full production in late 2023.

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