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Bay Area Leaders Join Lead the Charge Coalition Members to discuss priorities for cleaning up automotive supply chains in California, and globally

Lead the Charge recently published its annual Leaderboard, highlighting areas of progress and major gaps for cleaner and more equitable auto supply chains

RICHMOND, Calif. – Lateefah Simon and State Senator Josh Becker joined members of Lead the Charge to highlight findings from the organization’s second annual Auto Supply Chain Leaderboard and discuss California’s opportunity to exert pressure on automakers and their suppliers to clean up their supply chains as they transition to electric vehicles (EVs).

“Climate Change is our greatest challenge. It’s the 21st century’s equivalent to mobilizing during World War 2. As this site attests, we met that challenge with the might of California manufacturing, and we have a once in a lifetime chance to do it again,” said State Senator and Chair of the Bay Area Caucus Josh Becker. “We’re working to turn the Bay Area into a hub of battery manufacturing that, manufactures without degrading the environment, sources ethically, and collaborates with labor.”

“We are in an exciting moment where auto workers across the country are demanding that jobs throughout the EV supply chain are good union jobs. California has an opportunity to lead by ensuring that public funding for the EV transition goes to companies that accelerate the EV transition by bargaining collectively with their workers so that society can collectively fight climate change.” Said Mike Miller, Director, UAW Region 6

The 2024 edition of the leaderboard struck a tone of guarded positivity highlighting a surge ahead by American automakers (most notably Ford and Tesla), human rights due diligence, and steel decarbonization. The positive news was tempered by poor scores and little progress on ensuring respect for worker’s rights in auto supply chains. Most discouraging was the fact that virtually no progress was made, as an industry, on indigenous rights. 11/18 companies scored 0 in that category and all but 3 automakers failed to improve their scores from last year. 

“As a leader in the shift to electric vehicles, California has the opportunity to ensure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the fossil fuel era,” said Jared Naimark, California Mining Organizer for Earthworks. “Before lithium extraction at the Salton Sea can proceed, we must ensure that the rights of Indigenous Peoples will be respected and sacred landscapes protected.”

Speakers used the report to highlight the need for California to harness its tremendous buying power and nationwide policy influence to act as a leader in cleaning up battery, steel and aluminum supply chains. 

“As automakers develop new supply chains as part of the transition from combustion engines to electric vehicles, we are in the middle of a once in a generation opportunity to force automakers to ensure they are sourcing clean metals and minerals,” said Erika Thi Patterson, auto supply chain campaign director at Public Citizen. “Even the companies with the most egregious supply chain practices, like Toyota, are vulnerable to market pressure if consumers emphatically demand change.”

Other speakers sounded a cautious note, discussing the importance of centering communities impacted by the extraction, combustion and processing of materials needed to build the supplies and infrastructure needed to combat climate change. 

“Our communities still feel the fallout from environmental racism over the last century,” said Lateefah Simon. “Lead the Charge is leading the effort to make sure that our collective fight against climate change doesn’t harm indigenous communities, workers, communities of color and folks all over the world who sacrifice their health and their lives for our steel, aluminum, and batteries.” 

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