Soapbox

UAW wants to build lots of electric vehicles, but for fair wages

A United Auto Workers line worker loads stamped wheel housings at a General Motors plant in Pontiac, Mich. The union says it wants its workers to keep good jobs as the industry moves toward electric vehicles.
A United Auto Workers line worker loads stamped wheel housings at a General Motors plant in Pontiac, Mich. The union says it wants its workers to keep good jobs as the industry moves toward electric vehicles. AP file

Erika D. Smith’s recent column got the UAW position on electric vehicles wrong (“Trump isn’t alone hating electric cars. Ask Tesla,” Editorial notebook, Aug. 10). UAW members build tens of thousands of EVs and want to build more.

Like a midnight tweet from Elon Musk that missed the mark, the column missed the fact that the UAW is dealing with the real-world implications of technological change for our members and the public in a thoughtful, meaningful and planned way.

 
Opinion

One lesson of the past is what happens when workers displaced by technology are faced with a lack of transition to new jobs that pay living wages. There is a disruption that bubbles up from industry, to neighborhoods and communities and to the halls of California’s state Capitol and Congress.

The UAW is committed to take these lessons and turn these challenges into opportunities. And the UAW has a long history of support for environmental advocacy -- supporting fuel economy standards and the Paris climate change accords and our historic role as the main backer of the original Earth Day celebration.

But that UAW commitment requires that these new jobs remain here and that they provide fair wages, benefits and safe working conditions. The key question the UAW asks is: Will the EV transition provide jobs for tens of thousands of American workers who currently make parts and components for internal combustion engines?

When we invest in quality manufacturing jobs, the rest of the economy benefits. UAW members build electric vehicles and want to keep building them and not be left behind.

The environment must win. Shareholders can win. And American workers and their families, who have shouldered the lost wages and job opportunities of past technology transitions, must win.

Gary Jones is president of the United Auto Workers. He can be contacted at feedback@uaw.org.

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