The ongoing United Auto Workers (UAW) strike has highlighted the challenges the Biden administration faces in balancing the interests of environmentalists and union members. The strike, fueled in part by the UAW’s call for a “just transition” to protect workers during the transition to electric vehicles (EVs), has highlighted tensions between these two Democratic groups.
The strike involves about 13,000 UAW members who took action after failing to reach an agreement with major Detroit automakers on issues such as wages, benefits and job protections. While these issues are at the heart of the conflict, the transition to electric vehicles has also played an important role.
The UAW has raised concerns that the rise of non-union electric vehicle makers like Tesla could depress wages in the industry. Workers fear that automakers are taking advantage of the shift to electric vehicles to undercut their wages. According to a University of Houston report, the average wage at existing EV facilities is significantly lower than current union jobs, reflecting the UAW’s position.
The Biden administration has set ambitious electrification goals and wants to achieve them through high-paying union jobs. But the UAW strike shows how difficult it is to ensure that the transition benefits workers. Prolonged strikes could hamper U.S. progress in transitioning to electric vehicles.