UAW’s Historic Wins Are Fundamental For Our Clean Energy Future

United Auto Workers (UAW) at the Big 3 have shown tremendous solidarity—and now they’re poised to finalize historic contracts for it. As the first strike in American history to simultaneously include workers from Ford, Stellantis, and General Motors (GM), this strike has sent an unmistakable message that green jobs must also be good jobs. We cannot achieve a livable clean energy future without economic and environmental justice that prioritizes a formidable American workforce. This is why, in addition to key agreements that take a step in addressing livable wage increases and worker protections, expanded and unionized electric vehicle (EV) work has been a key pillar in UAW contract negotiations. 

Battery Plant Agreements Are a Key Win for Climate

Despite years of record profits, the major auto manufacturers in the U.S. have continued to deny their workers basic wage and protection measures that meet market scale and demand. But thanks to the leadership of UAW President Shawn Fain and the solidarity of thousands of UAW workers on the picket line, the Big 3 have finally agreed to rectify some of the predatory concessions workers were forced to make in the face of the 2008 financial crisis. The contracts won by UAW will include key guarantees like a 25 percent wage increase, boosted retirement benefits, and an end to “permanent-temporary” worker status

Critically, there are also transformative commitments to enshrine battery manufacturing as a vital piece of the booming electric vehicle market and auto manufacturing writ large. These agreements ensure a clearer pathway to unionization for battery plant workers, expansion of battery manufacturing facilities—including reviving the shuttered Belvidere assembly plant as a new EV battery plant—and from GM, a promise that battery plants will be included in all further national UAW negotiations.

The battery deals brokered by UAW will be central to boosting the already booming EV market and will supercharge our transition to a clean energy future. Without them, and without protections for the very workers delivering the goods, this transition would not be possible. 

A Signal For Others to Follow Suit

There’s no doubt: American workers are already building our clean energy future. The importance of UAW’s role in securing economic justice for its workers cannot be understated. EV sales continue to exponentiate in growth, with an expected year-on-year increase of more than 52 percent, thanks largely in part to investments from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). It’s more important than ever that we level the field for both climate justice and economic justice.  

UAW’s herculean show of strength is a signal to corporate titans around the country, and the world, that our clean energy future belongs to the workers who are building it. To those in seats of power, (looking at you, Toyota and Tesla) observing the indomitable might of autoworkers, this should be a clear signal to follow suit. Living wages and worker protections are non-negotiable, and those keen on success, from the auto industry and beyond, must be prepared to meet worker demands. And those demands cannot be met as a solely reactionary act, but also with sustainable pathways to unionization as a priority. 

UAW’s commitment to fully realizing that climate jobs must be good jobs will go down in the history books as a point of inflection for the American economy. And it is with these wins that we will continue building a livable future that promises climate justice, economic justice, and environmental justice for all.