The UAW has filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board calling for a union election to be held at Ultium Cells LLC’s battery factory in Warren, Ohio. In a statement, a regional director of the UAW for the area accused the General Motors-LG Energy Solution joint venture of intentionally delaying the union-forming process.
The Warren, Ohio, battery factory employs about 900 people, and according to the UAW, Ultium has previously said it would “recognize the majority will of the workers” based on signed union authorization cards and participated in several months of meetings with the union. On October 31, though, the auto union filed a petition to hold an election with the NLRB.
“It is clear now that the company’s strategy to delay and deny workers union representation for as long as possible,” said Wayne Blanchard, UAW’s director for the region with Warren, Ohio, in a statement. A lead in Ultium’s electrode department, George Goranitis, said Ultium’s inaction “reminds every one of us why we need to form our union.”
In an email response, an Ultium representative said the battery company will comply with the National Labor Relations Act and won’t get in the UAW’s way. “Ultium Cells respects workers’ freedom to choose union representation and the efforts of the UAW to organize battery cell manufacturing workers at our Ohio manufacturing site,” the representative wrote.
In comments at IndustryWeek’s Manufacturing & Technology show, held earlier in October, Kareem Maine, plant director of Ultium Cells’ battery plant, gave a similar response to a question from the audience on unionization, saying the company would defer to the NLRB's rules and the wishes of the employees.
“Our approach has been, we’re going to follow the guidelines from the NLRB. And so we’re taking a stance that the employees are going to choose whether they want to be unionized or not,” said Maine. "If there's an agreed-upon mutual decision for how we want to do a card check, we'll follow that process. At this time, there's not an agreed-upon process."
Maine continued by noting the UAW's historical presence in the area, which was home to General Motors' Lordstown Assembly Plant until 2019. The building is now home to the EV startup Lordstown Motors. "It's definitely an area that's right next to the old Lordstown [plant]. So it's there. People have expressed wanting to be unionized before."