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UAW and Ultium have a tentative contract agreement

LORDSTOWN — The United Auto Workers union has reached a tentative contract agreement with Ultium Cells for employees at the electric-vehicle battery-cell manufacturer’s plant in Lordstown.

Ultium Cells is a joint venture between General Motors and South Korea’s LG Energy Solution to mass produce EV battery cells for GM electric vehicles. Workers at the facility, the first plant in the partnership to launch production in August 2022, overwhelmingly voted in December 2022 to join the UAW. The plant employs about 1,600 people, according to the company’s website.

In the agreement, the top production wage is raised from $20 per hour after seven years to $35 per hour after one year, and the starting wage has increased from $16.50 per hour to $26.91 per hour, according to a letter from UAW President Shawn Fain on the union’s website.

Also, most members will receive a $3.59 per hour raise immediately upon ratification, the letter states.

“We have better health and safety language at Ultium than anywhere in this industry. We have made major gains for skilled trades, on scheduling, and on dozens of other important issues,” Fain’s letter states.

Informational sessions for members are planned. Voting for UAW Local 1112 members starts at 5 a.m. Friday and ends at 5 a.m. Sunday.

“This agreement is a gamechanger for the electric vehicle battery industry, and for the future of Lordstown and towns like it across this country,” the letter states.

Other contract highlights, according to the UAW website, include:

• A $3,000 signing bonus upon ratification.

• Raises for skilled trades workers. The pay for journeymen and women will increase to $38.16 per hour immediately.

• Time and a half pay after 10 hours.

• Paid relief time, meaning workers will be paid from the time they clock in to when they clock out.

• Full pay for jury duty and bereavement. For any regular 12-hour shift, workers will get 12 hours of pay with the appropriate overtime premium.

• Four full-time union health and safety representatives and one full-time union industrial hygienist.

“Five years ago, when they closed Lordstown Assembly, it was a major gut punch — I know, I lived it,” Dave Green, UAW Region 2B director, said. “They wrote Lordstown off for dead. They thought we’d settle for low wages and unsafe jobs. They thought wrong, and now Ultium workers are leading the way.”

Green is the former president of UAW Local 1112, a role he won in May 2018. Six months later, GM announced it was closing the Lordstown assembly plant, ending more than 50 years of GM automaking in the Mahoning Valley. The last vehicle was produced in March 2019.

Said Josh Ayers, shop chairman for Local 1112, “Organizing to win our union took relentless persistence on behalf of hundreds of my co-workers at Ultium. Negotiating this contract was no different. We want this agreement to become a cornerstone for current and future battery plants across the nation. First we planned. Then we took action. And now we have a tentative agreement to be proud of.”

GM spokesman Kevin Kelley wrote in an email, “We are pleased that there is a tentative agreement at the Ultium Cells joint venture …”

The Ultium Cells plant is on state Route 45 adjacent to the former GM assembly plant. After the facility was closed, GM sold it to Lordstown Motors Corp., which later sold it to Foxconn.

Bringing workers at EV battery plants, like Ultium Cells, into UAW’s national agreements was a key victory for the union during contract negotiations last year. UAW members at GM were the first to approve an agreement, with workers at Ford and Stellantis, the maker of Jeep and Ram vehicles, following.

The agreement with GM allows for a six-month window for certain displaced Lordstown assembly plant workers to transfer back to work at Ultium Cells. The window closes Sept. 13.

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