UAW reaches agreement on pay and safety at electric vehicle battery plant

GM and Ultium released statements saying they were pleased with the deal.

The union said it wants to use the Ultium Cells contract as a model to negotiate local deals at other battery plants that GM and its Detroit rivals are building. GM began production this year at a battery plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, and has another under construction in Lansing, Michigan.

Ford Motor plans two battery plants in Kentucky, one in Tennessee and one in Michigan. Stellantis, the maker of Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram vehicles, plans two battery plants in Indiana. Aside from a Ford location, these plants involve joint ventures that were brought under the umbrella of the UAW as part of national contracts the union signed with Ford and Stellantis last fall.

The Ultium Cells contract includes moving workers to a new wage of $30.50 an hour. In three years the wage will rise to $35 an hour. The national contract signed last fall raised Ultium Cells’ starting wage to $26.91, up from $16.50 an hour when the plant opened.

This pay scale is slightly lower than that of GM auto plants, where most workers will reach a maximum wage of more than $40 an hour in the coming years.

The Ultium Cells contract also requires the plant to employ four UAW members as full-time safety representatives and one full-time industrial hygienist. The union and Ultium workers have expressed concerns about working with high-voltage electricity and potentially harmful compounds used in the production of electric vehicle battery packs.