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Tipsheet

Why Biden's EV Push Is Threatening His Support Among 'Crucial Constituency'

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

A week after President Biden announced his reelection bid, a major union is on the fence about giving him its endorsement just yet.

The leader of the United Auto Workers union says not enough has been done thus far to address concerns over the administration’s electric vehicle push.

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“The federal government is pouring billions into the electric vehicle transition, with no strings attached and no commitment to workers. The EV transition is at serious risk of becoming a race to the bottom. We want to see national leadership have our back on this before we make any commitments,” UAW President Shawn Fain said in an internal memo to members on Tuesday.

Union leaders brought these concerns to Biden administration officials during a meeting in Washington last week, telling them about how the transition is affecting members’ lives: “plant closures and idlings … turn our members’ lives upside down, forcing workers to choose to take a buyout, retire, or transfer, uprooting their families and communities.”

The memo underscores how some of Mr. Biden’s boldest moves to fight climate change, which animate his liberal base, could at the same time weaken his political support among another crucial constituency. The U.A.W. has shrunk in size in recent decades, but it still counts about 400,000 active members, with a robust presence in Michigan, a critical battleground state for Democrats.

In April, the Biden administration proposed the nation’s most ambitious climate regulations yet, which would ensure that two-thirds of new passenger cars are all-electric by 2032 — up from just 5.8 percent today. The rules, if enacted, could sharply lower planet-warming pollution from vehicle tailpipes, the nation’s largest source of greenhouse emissions. But they come with costs for autoworkers, because it takes fewer than half the laborers to assemble an all-electric vehicle as it does to build a gasoline-powered car.

In the memo, Mr. Fain provided “talking points” for members about why the union was not immediately lining up behind Mr. Biden, writing that if companies received federal subsidies, then workers “must be compensated with top wages and benefits.” (NYT)

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The withheld endorsement comes after Biden quickly picked up other ones from the Amalgamated Transit Union, the Service Employees International Union, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers after making his reelection announcement.  

While Fain was clear it would not endorse former President Trump should he become the GOP nominee, he said “the United Auto Workers is not yet making an endorsement” of Biden. 

“Our members need to see an alternative that delivers real results,” he added. “We need to get our members organized behind a pro-worker, pro-climate, and pro-democracy political program that can deliver for the working class.”

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