Battle Over Electric Vehicles Is Central to Auto Strike
Battle Over Electric Vehicles Is Central to Auto Strike The New York Times
Carmakers and United Auto Workers Union Clash Amid Technological Upheaval
Carmakers are anxious to keep costs down as they ramp up electric vehicle manufacturing, while striking workers want to preserve jobs as the industry shifts to batteries.
A battle between Detroit carmakers and the United Auto Workers union, which escalated on Friday with targeted strikes in three locations, is unfolding amid a once-in-a-century technological upheaval that poses huge risks for both the companies and the union.
The strike has come as the traditional automakers invest billions to develop electric vehicles while still making most of their money from gasoline-driven cars. The negotiations will determine the balance of power between workers and management, possibly for years to come. That makes the strike as much a struggle for the industry’s future as it is about wages, benefits, and working conditions.
The Impact of Electric Vehicles
The established carmakers — General Motors, Ford Motor, and Stellantis, which owns Chrysler, Jeep, and Ram — are trying to defend their profits and their place in the market in the face of stiff competition from Tesla and foreign automakers. Some executives and analysts have characterized what is happening in the industry as the biggest technological transformation since Henry Ford’s moving assembly line started up at the beginning of the 20th century.
Nearly 13,000 U.A.W. workers walked off the job at three plants in Ohio, Michigan, and Missouri on Friday after talks between the unions and the companies in three separate negotiations failed to result in agreements before a Thursday deadline. Pay is one of the biggest sticking points: The union is demanding a 40 percent pay increase over four years, but the automakers have offered roughly half as much.
The Shift to Electric Vehicles
But the talks are about more than pay. Workers are trying to defend jobs as manufacturing shifts from internal combustion engines to batteries. Because they have fewer parts, electric cars can be made with fewer workers than gasoline vehicles. A favorable outcome for the U.A.W. would also give the union a strong calling card if, as some expect, it then tries to organize employees at Tesla and other nonunion carmakers like Hyundai, which is planning to manufacture electric vehicles at a massive new factory in Georgia.
Under pressure from government officials and changing consumer demand, Ford, G.M., and Stellantis are investing billions to retool their sprawling operations to build electric vehicles, which are critical to addressing climate change. But they are making little if any profit on those vehicles while Tesla, which dominates electric car sales, is profitable and growing fast.
Challenges and Concerns
Union demands would force Ford to scrap its investments in electric vehicles, Jim Farley, the company’s chief executive, said in an interview on Friday. “We want to actually have a conversation about a sustainable future,” he said, “not one that forces us to choose between going out of business and rewarding our workers.”
For workers, the biggest concern is that electric vehicles have far fewer parts than gasoline models and will render many jobs obsolete. Plants that make mufflers, catalytic converters, fuel injectors, and other components that electric cars don’t need will have to be overhauled or shut down.
“We are at the dawn of another industrial revolution and the way we’re going is the way we went in the last industrial revolution — a lot of profit for a few and misery and not good jobs for the many,” said Madeline Janis, executive director of Jobs to Move America, an advocacy group that works closely with the U.A.W. and other unions.
The Role of Unions and Future Outlook
Automakers have been racking up record profits during the last decade, but they cannot afford to lose time from work stoppages in their race to compete with Tesla and foreign automakers.
Despite all the money that automakers have made in recent years, their executives express a profound unease about the growth of electric vehicles, which account for 7 percent of the U.S. new car market so far this year and are on track to surpass sales of one million this year. Managers are acutely aware that traditional companies like theirs have a poor track record of retaining dominance after a big change in technology.
Speaking to “CBS Mornings” on Friday, Ms. Barra said an excessive pay raise would undermine G.M.’s ability to continue producing vehicles with internal combustion engines while also developing electric vehicles. “This is a critical juncture where investing is very important,” she said.
Unions “are not going to have a lot of patience for sob stories,” said Karl Brauer, executive analyst at iSeeCars.com, an online marketplace.
“If you look at the breakdown at what it costs to build an E.V., labor is a very small part of the equation. Batteries are the most,” Ms. Janis of Jobs to Move America said. “This idea that the U.A.W. is going to price Ford, G.M., and Stellantis out of the market is not true.”
But other analysts said that a long work stoppage could help Tesla and foreign automakers gain ground on G.M., Ford, and Stellantis.
The clash between Detroit carmakers and the United Auto Workers union is not just about wages and benefits but also about the future of the industry as it undergoes a technological transformation towards electric vehicles. The negotiations will determine the balance of power between workers and management and could have significant implications for the industry’s future. As the world strives to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Goal 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) and Goal 13 (Climate Action), the transition to electric vehicles becomes crucial. It is essential to find a sustainable solution that benefits both workers and the environment.
SDGs, Targets, and Indicators Analysis
1. Which SDGs are addressed or connected to the issues highlighted in the article?
- SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
- SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
- SDG 13: Climate Action
The article discusses the ongoing strike between Detroit carmakers and the United Auto Workers union, highlighting the challenges and risks posed by the technological shift towards electric vehicles. These issues are connected to SDG 8, which focuses on promoting sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all. The article also mentions the investments made by carmakers to develop electric vehicles, which aligns with SDG 9, which aims to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation. Additionally, the transition to electric vehicles is critical for addressing climate change, linking it to SDG 13, which focuses on taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
2. What specific targets under those SDGs can be identified based on the article’s content?
- SDG 8.5: By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.
- SDG 9.4: By 2030, upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes.
- SDG 13.2: Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning.
Based on the article’s content, the specific targets that can be identified are SDG 8.5, which focuses on achieving full and productive employment and decent work, including equal pay, and SDG 9.4, which aims to upgrade infrastructure and industries to make them sustainable and adopt clean technologies. Additionally, SDG 13.2, which emphasizes the integration of climate change measures into national policies and planning, is relevant to the transition to electric vehicles mentioned in the article.
3. Are there any indicators mentioned or implied in the article that can be used to measure progress towards the identified targets?
- Indicator 8.5.1: Average hourly earnings of female and male employees, by occupation, age group, and persons with disabilities.
- Indicator 9.4.1: CO2 emission per unit of value added.
- Indicator 13.2.1: Number of countries that have communicated their long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies.
The article does not explicitly mention specific indicators related to the identified targets. However, potential indicators that can be used to measure progress towards these targets include Indicator 8.5.1, which focuses on average hourly earnings of employees, Indicator 9.4.1, which measures CO2 emissions per unit of value added, and Indicator 13.2.1, which tracks the number of countries that have communicated their long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies.
4. Table: SDGs, Targets, and Indicators
|SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth||8.5: By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.||Indicator 8.5.1: Average hourly earnings of female and male employees, by occupation, age group, and persons with disabilities.|
|SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure||9.4: By 2030, upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes.||Indicator 9.4.1: CO2 emission per unit of value added.|
|SDG 13: Climate Action||13.2: Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning.||Indicator 13.2.1: Number of countries that have communicated their long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies.|
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