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September 22, 2023

EVs and the American Autoworker

Electric vehicles have fewer parts and require less labor to build, and that reality has driven a wedge between autoworkers and Democrats.

For decades, Democrats and autoworkers were joined at the hip. Which makes sense because Democrats and Big Labor were joined at the hip. But not anymore. Indeed, many of those rank-and-file workers are now at odds with the same party they’ve traditionally supported.

Why, it’s almost as if the Democrats are no longer the party of blue-collar America.

The effort by Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and Gavin Newsom to ram unwanted electric vehicles down our throats threatens to end the cozy relationship between the politicians pushing EVs and the union workers tasked with building them.

The Biden administration’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act provided “unprecedented levels of support for EVs, including at least $83 billion of loans, grants, and tax credits that could support the production of low or zero-emission vehicles, batteries, or chargers,” reports EV Hub. And just this month, Biden’s Department of Energy announced that it’s doling out another $15 billion in grants and loans.

With all that taxpayer money floating around, it’s no wonder that big automakers are tripping over themselves to lead the way with EVs. Unfortunately, they’re also abandoning the very men and women who’ve built those companies.

“The UAW strike entered its seventh day on Thursday,” reports Fox Business, “in what is the union’s first strike simultaneously targeting each of Detroit’s Big Three automakers — Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. About 12,700 workers at a trio of facilities operated by the Big Three went on strike last Friday in the initial wave of walkouts.”

The UAW is asking for a 46% pay raise over four years, a 32-hour work week while getting paid for 40, and the unionization of workers who build electric vehicles. But the biggest sticking point is that tens of billions of dollars being poured into EV infrastructure will take jobs away from autoworkers up and down the line.

As Business Insider reports: “Workers who assemble gasoline engines, transmissions, exhaust systems, and the myriad of other parts not needed in electric vehicles will likely bear the brunt of the transition. Moreover, electric motors and batteries are much simpler than traditional powertrains, allowing carmakers to maintain the same production output with fewer workers.”

The Big Three themselves are facing competition from Tesla, which is turning a profit on its EVs. On the other hand, Ford and other companies continue to lose billions on their EV production.

Ford last $3 billion last year on EVs and may lose another $4.5 billion this year. Yet according to to The New York Times, “If the union got all the increases in pay, pensions and other benefits it is seeking, the company said, its workers’ total compensation would be twice as much as Tesla’s employees.”

But it’s not all about short-term pay and benefits. Some union workers see a broader strategy to phase out gas-powered vehicles.

“In both public and private, union officials have made clear their belief that the auto industry is using the technological transition to mask a second, economic, transition,” reports The Atlantic. “They worry that the companies are using the shift from internal-combustion engines to carbon-free electric vehicles to simultaneously shift more of their operations from high-paying union jobs mostly in northern states to lower-paying, nonunion jobs mostly in southern states.”

And it turns out their fears are well-founded. Thanks to fewer regulations, lower electricity costs, and right-to-work laws, red states are benefitting from the EV transition. Hyundai, for example, plans to open a $4.6 billion EV factory in Georgia. And Ford is building a $5.6 billion battery and vehicle manufacturing campus in Tennessee called BlueOval City.

On the other hand, the transition from combustible engines to EVs is not only affecting future jobs in the auto industry; it also threatens to leave the U.S. even more dependent on China, which is the world’s leading producer of key elements needed in the production of EV battery cells. A future in which the majority of Americans own EVs is a future that China would be happy to supply.

It looks like the EV revolution is coming, but it won’t come without risks.

Democrats could lose support from the UAW and leave the U.S. even more energy dependent. And the precious environment that leftists claim to care about takes a big hit when renewable resources are mined. In the end, most Americans don’t want an EV and even fewer can afford one.

Biden and the Democrats won’t listen to the people, but a UAW strike may be just what’s needed to wake them up to the folly of electric vehicles.

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