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Union recognition sought at Ultium Cells

LORDSTOWN — Discussions between the United Auto Workers and Ultium Cells appear to be ongoing in the union’s effort to organize employees at the electric-vehicle partmaker’s new Lordstown factory.

“We believe that when a majority of workers in a workplace decide to form their union, the employer should respect that decision and recognize their union through neutrality and card check,” UAW spokeswoman Sandra Engle wrote in an email Thursday. “That is the basis of our ongoing conversations with General Motors, Ultium and other employers in our sectors.”

Engle declined to comment further.

Reports this week say some employees have said they will not show up to work until Ultium Cells recognizes them as a union. It has called a strike for recognition and today could be the deadline the company was given to recognize the union.

UAW Local 1112 President Darwin Cooper did not return a message seeking comment Wednesday and declined to comment Thursday.

According to a statement Wednesday from the company, Ultium Cells “respects workers’ right to unionize and the efforts of the UAW or any other union to organize battery-cell manufacturing workers at our manufacturing sites.

“Ultium Cells has every intention of complying with the National Labor Relations Act, which protects our employees’ right to decide the issue of union representation through a voluntary democratic election conducted by the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board).”

Local 1112 once was a powerhouse in the Mahoning Valley, representing thousands of workers at the former General Motors assembly complex in Lordstown. Its ranks still numbered about 1,200 when GM closed the plant in 2019, but those numbers faded fast with employees taking jobs at GM factories elsewhere.

Now more than three years later, the local still exists — but is a shell of its once robust self.

In June, the UAW claimed the company “flat-out rejected” a proposed card-check agreement for workers at the plant. Such an agreement would have given the UAW access to the plant to collect cards, a move to determine interest among employees to organize.

Then, a spokeswoman for Ultium Cells, Brooke Waid, said the company had some initial talks around a neutrality agreement that could enable card check at the Lordstown factory. Under a neutrality agreement, the employer agrees to remain neutral in any employee-organizing effort by a union.

Ultium Cells is a joint venture between GM and South Korea’s LG Energy Solution to mass produce EV battery cells for the automaker as it moves to zero emissions and full electrification.

Last week, the company announced it has started to manufacture the battery cells and plans to begin shipping the parts that will be part of several GM EV models by the end of the year.

The focus now is on workforce training as the plant ramps to full production, which is targeted for late 2023.

The factory employs about 800 now and expects to well exceed the 1,100 workers the company anticipated it would need, according to a top executive at Ultium Cells.

The batteries will go into vehicles with GM’s Ultium batteries, which currently include Hummer EVs, Chevrolet Silverado EV pickups and the Cadillac Lyriq electric SUV.

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