By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -United Auto Workers (UAW) union President Shawn Fain on Friday harshly criticized the U.S. Energy Department plan to lend $9.2 billion to a joint venture of Ford Motor and South Korea’s SK On to build three U.S. battery plants.
Fain called the loan a massive “giveaway” with “no consideration for wages, working conditions, union rights or retirement security” that would help create low-paying jobs adding, “Why is Joe Biden’s administration facilitating this corporate greed with taxpayer money?”
The wages of workers at battery JV plants are expected to be a key issue in contract talks that start next month with the Detroit Three automakers.
The $9.2 billion low-cost government loan for the BlueOval SK joint venture is the biggest ever from the government auto lending program that will help finance construction of three plants in Kentucky and Tennessee. SK is a unit of South Korea’s SK Innovation.
The joint venture is building battery plants in Kentucky and Tennessee capable of collectively producing more than 120 gigawatt hours annually.
Ford, the White House and the Energy Department did not immediately comment.
“Not only is the federal government not using its power to turn the tide – they’re actively funding the race to the bottom with billions in public money,” the UAW said.
In April, the UAW and Senator Bernie Sanders criticized a General Motors LG Energy Solution joint venture battery plant for paying workers much less than GM assembly plant employees even though it benefits from hefty U.S. government tax credits.
Workers at the Warren, Ohio, JV Ultium Cells plant start at $16.50 an hour rising to $20 an hour after seven years while union workers at a nearby Ohio GM assembly plant that closed in 2019 made $32 an hour or more.
Last year, the department awarded $2.5 billion to help finance construction of Ultium’s new lithium-ion battery plants, including Warren.
In May, the UAW said it was not yet endorsing Biden for reelection citing his electric vehicle policies.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Aurora Ellis)
Brought to you by www.srnnews.com