Biden Praises UAW Pact with Ultium’s Lordstown Plant

LORDSTOWN, Ohio – President Joe Biden on Monday praised the United Auto Workers and Ultium Cells LLC’s plant here for reaching what he described as a “historic agreement” that secures good wages and benefits for employees.

“I congratulate the United Auto Workers and Ultium Cells for reaching a historic agreement in Lordstown, Ohio, where UAW workers are manufacturing batteries for General Motors electric cars and trucks,” the president said in a statement. “This agreement significantly increases wages and ensures critical health and safety and scheduling protections for 1,600 workers.”

UAW Local 1112 members voted overwhelmingly to ratify their contract at Ultium Cells, a joint venture between GM and LG Energy Solution that builds battery cells for GM electric vehicles, the UAW announced Sunday. The local contract, approved by 98% over the weekend, sets a new standard for the EV industry with strong wages and benefits and historic health and safety protections, the union said.  

“Five years ago, the previous administration made false promises to Lordstown workers – and then stood by as the community lost jobs and faced economic devastation,” Biden’s statement said. “Today, Lordstown is a comeback story, and it didn’t happen by accident. With the help of my Investing in America agenda, the UAW and companies like General Motors are building the future of autos in America while we bring back good paying union jobs to communities like Lordstown. This agreement ensures that these union jobs will continue to be middle class jobs that allow workers to support their families.”

When Ultium opened in 2021, the workers were nonunion and earned $16.50 per hour, according to the UAW. “Ultium workers organized with the UAW in late 2022 and during the Stand Up Strike, they were brought under the GM national agreement,” the union said in a press release posted on its website.  

Under the new contract, Ultium production workers will receive a 30% pay increase over three years and an immediate $3,000 bonus. The Lordstown plant will also be staffed with union health and safety representatives and an industrial hygienist at the location.

By October 2027, Ultium production workers will make $35 per hour, the union said.

“We are very appreciative of everyone’s patience during the months of negotiations. It has been a long journey with multiple changes along the way,” Kareem Maine, Ultium Cells Ohio plant director, said in a news release. “We are pleased with the results of a ratified contract, and it is a proud moment for everyone. Everyone should take some time to recognize your role in creating the first unionized battery-manufacturing contract in the history of the United States.”

Ultium workers voted in favor of organizing and representation by the UAW in December 2022, and both the union and the company have been working collaboratively toward an initial agreement since February 2023.

Highlights of the agreement include:

  • Higher wages for all workers, including a significant increase after one year of experience for those members not in the skilled trades group.
  • Overtime (time-and-a-half) paid for the 11th and 12th hours worked in any given shift.
  • Enhanced relief time of 70 minutes per shift across three break periods.
  • Continued implementation of enhanced health and safety programs.

The new wage scale will go into effect immediately, and the remaining aspects of the contract will be implemented as soon as possible, the release states.

Pictured at top: Photo by Gene J. Puskar. (Associated Press)

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.