The United States has requested that Mexico investigate worker rights violations that were alleged to have taken place at one of the parts factories owned by Stellantis. Officials are curious about what’s been happening at Teksid Hierro de Mexico, a facility located in the border state of Coahuila that’s responsible for manufacturing iron casings, in regard to unionization. According to U.S. officials, this is the fourth such complaint under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
Having supplanted the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed into law by the Clinton administration in 1993, USMCA sought to rebalance trade laws the Trump administration believed had disadvantaged the United States. However, it also sought to advance worker protections in Mexico and give employees an easier pathway toward unionization.
When the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was being floated as a possible replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), one of the biggest selling points was the inclusion of new labor protections for Mexican workers. The Trump administration wanted to ensure serious labor reform took place south of the border to ensure union business was conducted responsibly and wages would increase. As a byproduct, USMCA is supposed to encourage North American synergies while gradually discouraging U.S. businesses from blindly sending jobs to Mexico to capitalize on poverty tier wages.
That theory will now be tested in earnest after General Motors employees from the Silao full-size truck plant voted overwhelmingly to dump the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) for the Independent Syndicate of National Workers (SINTTIA).
Unvaccinated workers from General Motors’ CAMI Assembly Plant have been removed from the facility and forced into unpaid leave. The automaker had a deadline set for December 12th to have all employees vaccinated, with Unifor previously having urged the company to postpone the date. The Western world has seen a surge of citizens protesting vaccine mandates this year, with Canadian unions conducting more than a few of their own. Though several organizers have said they’re operating independently due to a shared belief that Unifor was offering insufficient support to members and was effectively siding with automakers.
Despite the semiconductor shortage having encouraged the automotive sector to repeatedly idle factories, word on the ground is that things are becoming more stable. Companies are seeing less production downtime overall and workers are reporting more reliable working conditions across the board. However, several automakers have continued to express concerns (e.g. Volvo), alleging that chip shortages could stretch deep into 2022, while the U.S. government ponders how to advance chip production in-country and become less dependent on Asian suppliers.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has been touring Michigan, meeting with union members and industry heads, and plans to urge Congress to move on a $52 billion in funding bill aimed at boosting domestic production. We’ve questioned the efficacy of the CHIPS Act before, primarily in relation to how the subsidies would be allocated. But there are new concerns that the plan will mimic the Biden administration’s EV subsidies by spending heaps of taxpayer money and giving union-backed organizations a larger cut.
Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess has been facing off with the company’s German workforce for weeks over the changing nature of the business. VW vowed to transition itself toward an all-electric lineup following the 2015 diesel emissions scandal. But the necessary steps to get there haven’t been universally appreciated.
The general assumption has always been that electric vehicles would result in massive layoffs across the industry by nature of their needing fewer parts than internal combustion vehicles. But Volkswagen seems worried that it’s falling behind smaller rivals and needs to take decisive action to make sure it’s not outdone by firms operating in the United States and China. The proposed solution is an industrial overhaul designed to fast-track VW’s electrification goals. Unfortunately, German labor unions are convinced that this plan would incorporate massive layoffs and have become disinclined to offer their support. The issue worsened in September when Diess told the supervisory board that a slower-than-desired transition to EVs could result in 30,000 fewer jobs.
Toyota Motor North America has already voiced its opposition to the proposed EV tax credit scheme tied to the the Democrats’ latest spending bill. This week, it has decided to expand its message by purchasing advertisements in national publications.
Starting Tuesday, Toyota will be launching an ad campaign intended to help bring Americans toward its side of the fence. While the automaker isn’t intrinsically offended by the government-backed incentivizing of electric vehicles, it has taken umbrage with the Biden administration’s insistence that consumers be issued an additional $4,500 incentive for purchasing union-made products. Though the reasoning should be obvious, since the company doesn’t have any unionized facilities in the U.S., the automaker is seeing growing support as the related legislation is stalled on Capitol Hill.
Like the rest of the world, the automotive industry is currently living in two distinct realities. Labor unions and part suppliers have been sounding the alarm that electric vehicles will require far fewer hands to manufacture and will ultimately lead to their demise. But battery firms, establishment politicians, and most automakers have claimed that transitioning to EVs is entirely necessary and will result in there being a surge of high-paying jobs to replace those lost.
Then there are claims you can’t quite wrap your head around, like the one Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess reportedly made to the supervisory board in September. The Diess Man asserted that VW would lose 30,000 jobs if it transitioned too slowly to electrics, framing the situation around Tesla arriving in Germany and fresh competition from Chinese manufacturers. While it’s certainly possible that VW could take a hit as its rivals move on Europe, the premise that it’s going to cost the business jobs is sort of bewildering when just about every analyst agrees that electrification will result in a leaner workforce across the board.
With the Biden administration having announced that it would start requiring companies to vaccinate employees, automakers and UAW are finding themselves in a sticky situation. Unions had previously said they wanted to hold off on endorsing or opposing mandatory vaccinations until after they discussed things with the industry and their own members. Considering Joe Biden said he wouldn’t make vaccines mandatory less than 10 months ago, employers are getting caught with their pants around the proverbial ankles.
Automakers had previously been surveying white-collar workers to see what they wanted to do while upping on-site COVID restrictions, but operating under the impression that any hard decisions were likely a long way off and left entirely to their discretion. Now the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is planning a new standard that requires all employers with 100 (or more) employees to guarantee their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any unvaccinated workers to produce a negative test result on a minimum weekly basis.
Despite regulatory efforts often being praised as essential for elevating standards and promoting safety, they’re also an excellent way to funnel money and favors between political and corporate entities in plain sight. This dichotomy is particularly glaring in regard to environmental restrictions, which frequently favor businesses that are wealthy enough to afford to adhere to them and subsidies that effectively reroute tax funding to support various industries.
Considering this, it’s fairly rare to see bigger businesses griping about government assistance. But that’s exactly what Honda is doing with a proposal in Congress seeking to provide additional EV subsidies to consumers that buy vehicles manufactured by union-backed plants. The manufacturer has stated it believes the Clean Energy for America Act is discriminatory by favoring specific automakers and will ultimately restrict the choices available to consumers – which is true.
Detroit automakers and the UAW have elected to reinstitute national masking mandates for all of their facilities, starting Wednesday. General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis have issued a joint announcement clarifying that the rules are in accordance with the updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommending masks be worn by all persons regardless of their vaccination status.
Based upon the text included in the release, the industry seems aware that the decision will be unpopular and is doing its utmost to transition responsibility without absolving itself entirely.
Despite American carmakers and the United Auto Workers abandoning mask mandates at the end of June, there’s been an about-face in Wentzville, Missouri. The state witnessed an uptick of cases, encouraging both the UAW and General Motors to reintroduce masks and social distancing protocols.
The facility is responsible for the GMC Canyon and Colorado, as well as Chevrolet’s Savana and Express. It’s also likely to be the first facility of many we’re assuming will be told it’s time to go back to the old masking rules. But why is this happening so soon after everyone was given the green light to return to normal operations?
The COVID-19 Joint Task Force comprised of Detroit automakers and the United Auto Workers (UAW) has announced that it will be removing mask mandates for vaccinated employees. After meeting on Monday to discuss changes within state and federal health policies, the group decided masks should be made voluntary items for staffers. They could not get the rule change to coincide with the date the decision was made, however.
Lineworkers will instead be waiting until July 12th to pitch their masks in the trash bin so they can be deposited upon beaches and sea beds around the world. Of course, if a government agency (city, state, or county) wants to uphold old mandates or introduce new ones, the COVID-19 Joint Task Force said it would automatically comply. But that might not matter if employees have already decided to stop observing pandemic protocols.
There is plenty of electrification news this week, despite the brunt of consumers remaining seemingly disinterested in the automotive segment that’s entirely dependent upon batteries. General Motors recently announced that it would be increasing its EV investments through 2025 to $35 billion, noting that some amount of the funding will also be going toward autonomous vehicle development.
Meanwhile, Stellantis confirmed that it’s planning a quartet of battery-driven automobiles offering more utility than the pint-sized Fiat 500e. Those vehicles aren’t supposed to see assembly until 2024 and there are lingering questions about where the firm plans on building battery plants. But the UILM union has confirmed that the upcoming models are likely to be midsized and built at the company’s Melfi plant in Italy.
The Transportation Trades Department for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) is spending its Tuesday telling the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce subcommittee that autonomous vehicles. Though it’s not because they occasionally run amok when left to their own devices. This is a matter of jobs.
Labor leaders have become increasingly concerned by the massive layoffs that will likely accompany the proliferation of electric vehicles, which require fewer components to assemble. But AVs have played second fiddle until fairly recently, with truckers doing most of the heavy lifting themselves. Now, the ALF-CIO is getting in on the action and hoping to convince legislators to establish formal requirements for there to be a driver behind in the wheel of all commercial vehicles over 10,000 pounds.
General Motors has decided its fifth electric vehicle facility should be in Mexico and has set aside $1 billion for its complex in Ramos Arizpe, Coahuila, Mexico. While a portion of the funds will go toward a new paint shop, the manufacturer also said the money would be used to prepare the site for EV and battery production, angering the United Auto Workers (UAW).
“This is a slap in the face for not only UAW members and their families,” stated UAW Vice President Terry Dittes. “General Motors automobiles made in Mexico are sold in the United States and should be made right here, employing American workers.”