Ultium Cells Workers Vote to Join the UAW

LORDSTOWN, Ohio – Workers at the Ultium Cells plant here have voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining the UAW. The vote was 710 in favor of the UAW, 16 opposed and one void ballot, according to the statement released overnight by the union.

“Our entire union welcomes our latest members from Ultium,” said UAW President Ray Curry. “As the auto industry transitions to electric vehicles, new workers entering the auto sector at plants like Ultium are thinking about their value and worth. This vote shows that they want to be a part of maintaining the high standards and wages that UAW members have built in the auto industry.”

Ultium Cells LLC is a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions. Production at the plant began in August.

Voting took place two days this week at the plant on Tod Avenue. The results mean the UAW will represent Ultium workers during negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement. There is no indication at this hour when contract talks might begin. The parties have five business days to file objections to the election. If no objections are filed, the results will be certified and the employer must begin bargaining in good faith with the union, according to the NLRB.

“Region 2B has stood with Ultium workers since the moment they said they wanted to form their organizing committees,” saids UAW Region 2B Director Wayne Blanchard. “Their hard work and the support of Region 2B members and staff have led to this powerful victory. Special thanks to the retirees of Local 1112 who would open the hall at any hour to help Ultium workers meet.”

On Oct. 31, the UAW filed a petition with the Cleveland office of the National Labor Relations Board that called for a union election at the plant in order to gain recognition. Previously, the UAW organized a card-check process in which 85% of the employees at Ultium Lordstown signed up.

Ultium responded that it wanted an election that would be certified by the NLRB.

“We have received election results from the National Labor Relations Board and respect the decision of our Ohio workforce supporting representation by the UAW. We look forward to a positive working relationship with the UAW,” the company said in a statement.

“We’re proud of the many achievements our Ohio workforce has accomplished as a team and there’s lots of great work that continues to take place across our site as we build battery cells for our customer General Motors prioritizing both quality and safety,” the statement said.

The election was open from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Dec. 7, and during the same time period on Thursday. Ultium employs approximately 900 workers at the plant.

Over several months, the company participated in meetings and discussions with the UAW about a process for certifying the UAW’s majority status without going through an NLRB election, the UAW said earlier.

In September, workers at Ultium authorized the potential use of a strike to pressure the company to recognize the UAW. About 94% of those who voted approved the strike measure.

In a statement, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan said “see[ing] Ultium Cells workers vote to unionize and gain a voice in their workplace is overdue, but we know that we still have a lot of work to do. With Ultium, Foxconn, and TJX/Homegoods, we have created opportunities for our young people to thrive, and the future is bright in the Mahoning Valley.” 

Added Ryan, whose term expires Dec. 31, “When General Motors shuttered the Lordstown plant, our community was devastated. But I remained engaged with company leadership and let them know we needed their vision and new investments to be a part of the Mahoning Valley and Ohio.”

The Ultium plant here manufactures battery cells for electric vehicles, and the vote could set a precedent for future organizing efforts as the automobile industry transitions to EVs.

Ultium is in the process of building two other plants, one in Spring Hill, Tenn., and another in Lansing, Mich. A fourth plant is also in the planning stages.

Pictured: Ultium Workers demonstrate their support for the UAW.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.