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GM Makes Key Concession To Striking UAW Members

By Steve Hanley - Clean Technica, October 8, 2023

The strike by the UAW against General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis is three weeks old. Until now, little progress has been made toward a resolution, and the union has been relentlessly ratcheting up the pressure on the companies in order to get them to agree to its demands. Shawn Fain, the head of the UAW, doesn’t look like he could win a cage-fighting match with anyone under the age of 70, but his tactics are beginning to bear fruit for the 145,000 United Auto Workers members.

At the very heart of the labor dispute is a fear by union members that the transition to electric cars will greatly reduce the number of workers needed to build the cars and trucks of the future. An engine and transmission have up to 10,000 parts whirring around inside. An electric vehicle drivetrain has a dozen or less.

It doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out that machines that are less complex might need fewer people to put them together. That may be a flawed analysis, however. Most of those engines and transmissions are put together by robots.

The days of people with torque wrenches assembling engines by hand are long gone — although boutique manufacturers like Porsche and McLaren still use such tried and true methods for their premium automobiles. So the fears the workers have about fewer jobs in the future as the EV revolution moves forward may be overblown.

GOP, Corporate Media Attempt to Manufacture Conflict Between Autoworkers and Climate

The Big 3 Want You To Think Striking Workers and the Climate Are at Odds. They’re Not

By Sarah Lazare - In These Times, September 18, 2023

In recent media coverage of the United Auto Workers’ stand-up strike against the Big Three car makers — Stellantis, Ford and General Motors — a false narrative is circulating: that the walkout is in conflict with the urgent need to mitigate climate change. The basic argument is that if wages and benefits were to improve, this would make the transition to electric vehicle manufacturing unprofitable, and would therefore imperil a centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s environmental policy. 

“Union demands would force Ford to scrap its investments in electric vehicles, Jim Farley, the company’s chief executive, said in an interview on Friday,” reporter Jack Ewing wrote for the New York Times on September 16. Ewing goes on to quote Farley saying, ​“We want to actually have a conversation about a sustainable future, not one that forces us to choose between going out of business and rewarding our workers.”

In an article that ran on September 13, the day before the strike began, New York Times reporter Noam Scheiber put it similarly: ​“The companies say that even if they could raise wages for battery workers to the rate set under their national U.A.W. contract, doing so could make them uncompetitive with nonunion rivals, like Tesla.”

These reports echo the talking points of the same companies that have had a direct hand in slowing the transition to electric vehicles. All of the Big Three automakers are members of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a trade group, that lobbied against a proposed Biden administration rule to require that two out of three new passenger cars sold in the United States are electric vehicles by 2032. 

These companies have also played a key role in fueling climate change. Scientists at Ford and General Motors knew about the impacts of global warming as early as the 1960s, yet the companies intensified their fossil-fuel heavy business model, turning to the manufacturing of trucks and SUVs over the ensuing decades while donating ​“hundreds of thousands of dollars to groups that cast doubt on the scientific consensus on global warming,” as revealed in a 2020 investigation by E&E News. Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler (now owned by Stellantis) are among ​“the strongest opponents of regulations to help countries meet the 1.5C warming limit in the Paris agreement,” according to an investigation by The Guardian published in 2019.

Yet this vital context is largely being left out of ongoing coverage and, instead, companies’ supposed concerns about the environment are being reported at face value.

The “Electrify Everything” Movement’s Consumption Problem

By Amy Westervelt - The Intercept, May 8, 2023

In 2019, Thea Riofrancos was splitting her time between researching the social and environmental impacts of lithium mining in Chile and organizing for a rapid energy transition away from fossil fuels in the United States. A political science professor at Providence College and member of the Climate and Community Project, Riofrancos was struck by the contrast: Lithium is essential to the batteries that make electric vehicles and renewable energy work, but mining inflicts its own environmental damage. “Here I am in Chile, in the Atacama Desert, seeing these mining-related harms, and then there I go in the U.S. advocating for a rapid transition. How do I align these two goals?” Riofrancos said. “And is there a way to have a less extractive energy transition?”

When she went looking for research that would help answer that question, she found none, at least not for the transportation sector, which was her area of focus. “I saw forecast after forecast that assumed basically a binary of the future,” she said. “Either we stay with the fossil fuel status quo and the existential crisis that that is causing for the planet and all of its people. Or we transition to an electrified, renewably powered future, but that doesn’t really change anything about how these sectors or economic activities are organized.”

Riofrancos wanted to look at multiple ways to design an electrified future and understand what the costs and impacts of different scenarios might be. So she linked up with other Climate and Community Project researchers and put together a report mapping out four potential pathways to electrification for the transportation sector. Titled “Achieving Zero Emissions With More Mobility and Less Mining,” the report concluded that even relatively small, easy-to-achieve shifts like reducing the size of cars and their batteries could deliver big returns: a 42 percent reduction in the amount of lithium needed in the U.S., even if the number of cars on the road and the frequency with which people drive stayed the same.

It’s the sort of thing politicians and electrification advocates need to think through now, when decisions can be made to guide the energy transition in one direction or another. It’s also critical to an underdiscussed component of climate action: demand for products and services and the role energy plays in fulfilling those demands. Which connects right up to another topic that American politicians don’t want to touch with a 10-foot pole: consumption.

The Lithium Problem: An Interview with Thea Riofrancos

By Alyssa Battistoni and Thea Riofrancos - Dissent, Spring 2023

Can we rapidly reduce carbon emissions while minimizing the damage caused by resource extraction?

After years of outright climate denial and political intransigence, the development of renewable energy is finally underway. When it comes to transportation—the number one source of U.S. carbon emissions—the strategy for decarbonization has focused heavily on replacing gas-powered cars with rechargeable electric vehicles. The Inflation Reduction Act offers billions of dollars of subsidies for both producers and consumers of EVs, including a $7,500 tax credit for buying new EVs made in the United States. The infrastructure bill passed in late 2021 included $5 billion to help states build a network of EV recharging stations. New York and California have announced bans on the sale of vehicles with internal combustion engines beginning in 2035. Half of this year’s Superbowl car ads touted electric vehicles. By 2030, it is estimated that electric vehicles will make up half of U.S. car sales.

For our reliance on privatized transportation to remain the same, everything else will have to change. We’re already seeing concerns about shortages of “critical minerals” necessary for batteries and other renewable technologies. Based on current consumption patterns, for example, U.S. demand for the lithium used in batteries would require three times the existing global supply—which comes primarily from Australia, Latin America, and China—by 2050. In anticipation of booming demand, a flurry of new mining operations has begun around the world—and so have protests by those worried that mines will disturb ecosystems, contaminate water supplies, generate toxic waste, and disrupt local livelihoods.

What does the current trajectory of the “green energy transition” mean for global environmental justice? What other options are there? Is it possible to rapidly reduce carbon emissions while also minimizing extraction and maintaining—or even increasing—people’s ability to move freely and safely?

A new report from the think tank Climate and Community Project presents the data behind different visions of the green future. A scenario in which the United States reduces car dependency by improving public transit options, density, and walkability could see a 66 percent decrease in lithium demand compared to a business-as-usual model. Even just reducing the size of U.S. vehicles and batteries could potentially reduce lithium use by as much as 42 percent in 2050. In other words, the choices Americans make about domestic transportation, housing, and development matter worldwide. In this interview, the report’s lead author, political scientist Thea Riofrancos, explains the implications of its findings for climate and environmental politics in the United States and around the planet.

We Uncovered the Gory Truth Behind Elon Musk's Texas Takeover

Fired Tesla Worker Speaks Out

Elon Musk Runs a Racist, Union Busting Company, and Taibbi is Covering For Him

Tesla Fired Over 30 Workers in Buffalo the Day After Union Announced Campaign

By Sharon Zhang - Truthout, February 16, 2023

The union has filed a complaint saying that the firings were retaliation for unionizing.

Dozens of Tesla workers in Buffalo, New York, were fired the day after workers announced their unionization campaign, a move that the union says amounts to illegal union busting.

According to Tesla Workers United, over 30 workers at the Buffalo “Gigafactory” were fired on Wednesday after workers went public with their union effort the day before, sending a letter to right-wing billionaire CEO Elon Musk asking him not to interfere with the union effort. At least one of the workers who was fired is a member of the union’s organizing committee.

Workers United, under which workers are unionizing, has filed a complaint over the firings, per Bloomberg. The union says that workers were fired “in retaliation for union activity and to discourage union activity,” and is seeking a federal injunction to stop the firings. It is illegal for companies to fire workers in retaliation for pro-union views or activities.

“These firings are unacceptable. The expectations required of us are unfair, unattainable, ambiguous and ever changing,” the union wrote in a statement. “For our CEO, Elon Musk, to fire 30 workers and announce his $2 billion charity donation on the same day is despicable. We stand as one.” (Musk announced on Wednesday that he donated $2 billion in Tesla shares to an undisclosed charity last year. When he made a similar donation in 2021, it went to his own foundation.)

Organizing committee member Arian Berek, who was fired, said that the decision left them dumbstruck. “I got COVID and was out of the office, then I had to take a bereavement leave. I returned to work, was told I was exceeding expectations and then Wednesday came along,” Berek said in a statement.

Tesla Workers in Buffalo Are Unionizing, With Help From Starbucks Unionists

By Sharon Zhang - Truthout, February 14, 2023

Tesla workers in Buffalo, New York, are seeking to form the company’s first union, the workers announced on Tuesday, with help from leaders of the Starbucks union effort that has seen prodigious success over the past two years.

“We want Tesla to be the company we know it can be. Our union will further Tesla’s principles and objectives, including by helping to serve as the conscience of the organization and by ensuring and deepening our culture of trust and respect,” the union wrote in a statement urging the company to commit to not interfering with the union effort.

The workers are unionizing with Workers United, an affiliate of Service Employees International Union (SEIU). They sent an email to Musk on Tuesday announcing their intent to unionize, and are planning to hand out Valentine’s Day cards at work on Tuesday that read “Roses are red / violets are blue / forming a union starts with you,” with a link to a website where workers can sign union cards, per Bloomberg.


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