WASHINGTON/DETROIT -- The plan for Ford Motor Co. and Korean battery partner SK Innovation to build three battery plants in the U.S., announced this week, will prompt a furious drive by labor leaders to organize the plants, potentially setting the tone for future union drives at auto industry factories in southern U.S. states.
The UAW, which represents about 150,000 hourly workers at the U.S. plants for General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler parent Stellantis, is working to represent workers at battery plants. Union leaders have said Ford has a "moral obligation" to make sure battery plant jobs are good-paying union jobs.
The fate of these workers is so important because building EVs and the batteries that power them is largely where the job growth lies in the auto sector. If the UAW strikes out in the Ford-SK plants, it could face the risk of further erosion of membership as consumers buy fewer gasoline-powered vehicles.
The UAW has strong allies in Washington as U.S. President Joe Biden has called on U.S. automakers to deepen their relationships with the union, and House Democratic leaders want to give union-made U.S. electric vehicles an extra $4,500 in consumer retail incentives.
However, Tesla CEO Elon Musk whose plants are non-union, suggested on Tuesday the Biden administration was controlled by unions when it comes to EV policy.