Workers to decide whether to unionize Ohio GM-LG battery joint venture

By David Shepardson

(Reuters) - Workers next month will decide whether to unionize at a General Motors-LG Energy battery cell manufacturing joint venture in Ohio, a U.S. government agency said.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) said workers at Ultium Cells LLC in Warren, Ohio, will vote Dec. 7-8 after the United Auto Workers (UAW) petitioned to represent about 900 workers.

The vote is a crucial test of the UAW's ability to organize workers in the growing electric vehicle supply chain.

The UAW petition sought the election after a majority of employees signed cards authorizing the union to represent them.

An Ultium spokesperson on Wednesday said the venture "respects workers’ right to choose union representation and the efforts of the UAW to organize battery cell manufacturing workers at our Ohio manufacturing site."

The UAW declined to comment Wednesday but UAW President Ray Curry said in October that "by refusing to recognize their majority will, Ultium – which is a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solution – has decided to ignore democracy and delay the recognition process."

In August, the Ohio plant began production, the first of at least four planned Ultium U.S. battery factories.

In a trip to South Korea in May, U.S. President Joe Biden expressed support for workers seeking to unionize JV battery plants. The Detroit Three automakers all have battery plants in the works with Korean partners.

South Korea and the Biden administration have sparred over a U.S. decision to revise a tax credit making all EVs assembled outside North America ineligible for tax credits, including all Hyundai and Kia EVs for sale.

GM and LG Energy are considering an Indiana site for a fourth U.S. battery plant. They are building a $2.6 billion battery cell plant in Michigan, set to open in 2024, and a $2.3 billion Tennessee plant to be completed in 2023.

In July, the U.S. Energy Department said it intends to loan Ultium $2.5 billion to help finance new lithium-ion battery cell manufacturing facilities including the Ohio plant.

(Reporting by David Shepardson in Petaluma, California; Editing by Stephen Coates)