DETROIT, Mich. — Over 100 environmental, advocacy, consumer, and civil society groups today called on the Big Three automakers to move quickly to agree to a contract that protects workers rights and prioritizes workers in the United States as the vehicle fleet transitions towards electric vehicles (EVs). Members of United Auto Workers (UAW) are set to go on strike this week if automakers fail to meet their demands.
In an open letter signed by Public Citizen, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace USA, Mighty Earth, and Labor Network for Sustainability, groups called on General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., and Stellantis N.V., to center workers and communities in negotiations and protect those workers in the EV transitions.
The letter insists that the transition cannot be a “race to the bottom” that further exploits workers. Its demands include:
- an end to the unjust tier system for workers;
- just wage and benefit increases that keep in line with the cost of living and provide a good life for workers and their communities;
- the same pay and safety standards for workers in sustainable battery production as under the National Agreements; and
- a robust, fair and just transition into the EV economy with no loss of autoworker livelihood.
As part of the letter, Public Citizen, Mighty Earth, and Labor Network for Sustainability held a rally outside of Detroit’s Huntington Place, home of the 2023 North American International Auto Show. The event, held on the first day of the show, included speakers from the three organizations. During the rally, speakers urged the Big Three automakers to meet the UAW’s demands, revealed a banner of support, and then distributed postcards with links to the solidarity letter to passersby.
“The Inflation Reduction Act is poised to pump billions of taxpayer dollars into the automakers efforts to transition to electric vehicles. As taxpayers help propel the transition, automakers must prioritize creating millions of good, union jobs for employees—alongside switching to green steel, sustainable recycling of EV batteries, and robust transparency for consumers and communities.” – Erika Thi-Patterson, auto supply chain campaign director at Public Citizen’s Climate Program.
“UAW’s fight for fair wages, equal pay for equal work, good EV jobs, and economic security for workers and communities on the cutting edge of the clean energy transition is a struggle shared with all advocates of climate justice. For the transition off fossil fuels to succeed, it’s imperative that it is a just transition that can convince millions of people to take the leap of faith into the new green economy. Big 3 Auto CEOs may be benefiting from taxpayer-funded EV subsidies, but their failure to provide a strong contract that meets the demands of their workers is holding the climate movement back. The Labor Network for Sustainability is honored to stand in solidarity with auto workers, and on the right side of history.” – Joshua Dedmond, co-director at Labor Network for Sustainability.
“The transition to a carbon-neutral material supply chain for electric vehicles must include respect for human rights, including strong union jobs. The EV transition cannot be a ‘race to the bottom’ that further exploits workers and fenceline communities. The transition can be a vehicle for economic and racial justice if we use UAW’s demands as our roadmap: equal pay for equal work, fair wages tied to living costs, equitable treatment in battery production, and the creation of secure, safe, and unionized EV jobs.” – Matthew Groch, senior director for Heavy Industry Decarbonization at Mighty Earth.
“We do not have to choose between good jobs and green jobs. Corporate titans will try to split our movement by presenting us with a false choice. They’ll try to argue that building more clean cars is more important than supporting workers. But we know better. Our collective movement can only succeed if workers directly benefit from climate action. Evergreen and the environmental movement are ready to stand with workers because a fair transition to a clean energy future does not just mean deploying clean technology—it means advancing a working class economic agenda that supports workers and communities. It is incumbent on the president and the climate movement to further support the UAW in this fight and help ensure that the EV transition doesn’t become a corporate race to the bottom.” – Trevor Dolan, industry and workforce policy lead at Evergreen Action.
“Greenpeace USA commends the 150,000 UAW auto workers for bravely confronting the corporate greed of the ‘Big 3’ automakers by demanding that ‘record profits must mean record contracts’ for workers. Greenpeace USA has joined over 100 climate organizations and millions of Americans uniting in solidarity with auto workers because we know that economic and racial justice for workers and our communities is possible if we fight for it together. The revival of domestic manufacturing of electric vehicles must also deliver on the promise of safe, dependable, good paying UNION jobs across the entire supply chain. In addition, we call on the Biden Administration and all those in government at the federal, state and local level to use every tool at their disposal to ensure strong labor standards are deployed alongside any support that taxpayers provide for EV automakers. It’s time for the Big 3 CEOs to deliver what these workers have demanded — a fair contract and a just transition now!” – Ben Smith, senior campaigner at Greenpeace USA.
“The UAW contracts with the Big Three are a rare moment to lead on both worker justice and climate justice. We know that auto manufacturers can afford to do both of these things. Quality careers at the Big Three have historically been a pathway to the middle class – especially for rural and Black workers – but previous concessions have made it harder for these workers to obtain these quality careers. The Big Three have been able to keep wages stagnant through two-tier wage systems and threaten to lower pay and safety standards at new electric vehicle manufacturing plants throughout the South. Transitioning to a cleaner energy future must empower workers and secure thriving careers for generations to come. Jobs With Justice stands with UAW!” – Nafisah Ula, organizing director at Jobs with Justice.
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