By Sen. JD Vance
The ongoing United Auto Workers strike marks a pivotal moment for the American labor movement. This historic walkout across the Big Three automakers shows that union workers have not lost their resolve. It also offers the UAW an opportunity to safeguard their future against an existential threat: President Biden’s forced transition to electric vehicles.
The Blade’s Sep. 16 editorial “UAW eyeing EV plants” outlines exactly the wrong approach. Instead of leveraging this moment to steer the Biden administration away from their obsession with EVs, the editors would have Toledo’s autoworkers resign themselves to a fate of lower wages and fewer job prospects. Make no mistake: that is what the future holds if Joe Biden’s EV folly is allowed to continue. I pray the UAW leadership has the wisdom to acknowledge it.
These are the facts: China dominates the global supply chain for electric vehicles — especially for critical minerals and batteries. While an electric vehicle may bear the logo of Ford, Chevy, or Chrysler, its core components were probably made in China with Chinese labor and Chinese materials. Two of the Big Three automakers are losing massive amounts of money on electric vehicles. Ford, for example, loses $32,000 on every EV they sell. These losses lead to lower wages for workers, fewer auto jobs being available, and higher prices for consumers.
Those who have claimed there will be a “just transition” to EVs should visit Northeast Ohio for a glimpse into the industry’s bleak future. Up the road from the once-iconic Lordstown Assembly Complex, where 15,000 union workers once assembled millions of cars, now stands a battery plant that employs a fraction of the workers at a fraction of the wages. And earlier this summer, we unfortunately saw the much-heralded electric vehicle company Lordstown Motors file for bankruptcy. Autoworkers at the Toledo Assembly Complex and Toledo Transmission can look to Lordstown for a cautionary tale of what Joe Biden has in store for them.
Ohioans that I speak with justifiably wish to see a course correction. But instead of pumping the brakes, the Biden administration is doubling down on EVs and driving our auto industry straight off a cliff. The editors pointed it out themselves: “In less than 10 years two-thirds of the autos sold need to be electric powered according to current government mandates.”
The numbers show that the government-mandated shift to electric vehicles has been a disaster, and the numbers have been significantly propped up by taxpayer subsidies for EVs. But no amount of government underwriting will outweigh such unsustainable losses over the long term. It is time for a reckoning in the auto industry and at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Ohio has unfortunately seen this play before. Toledo was once among the most prosperous cities in America. Its booming industry and growing middle-class were the envy of the world. But decades of failed leadership in Washington and in the boardroom have laid waste to proud manufacturing communities like Toledo throughout the Heartland. Today, the same politicians who pursued an aggressive agenda of trade liberalization that crushed American industry are making the exact same mistake, but under the banner of climate alarmism.
What proponents of this premature push to electric vehicles fail to appreciate is how much their agenda decreases the bargaining power of Ohio autoworkers. The more the Big Three’s business model relies on global supply chains and non-union labor, the less the UAW can effectively push for higher wages. Their leverage decreases every time a consumer buys a car made without an Ohio worker, and yet the policies of the Biden administration are explicitly designed to shift the auto industry offshore.
With this moment, the UAW leadership has an opportunity they cannot let slip through their grasp. Rather than relenting to the Biden administration’s unjust transition to EVs, the UAW should use their leverage and force the President to stop subsidizing an industry that benefits Communist China more than it does American workers.
I will support any agreement between the UAW and the Big Three that accomplishes these goals. By pivoting away from the Biden administration’s destructive electric vehicle policies, we can achieve higher wages, greater job security, and a brighter future for autoworkers. It’s time to move past this failed experiment and empower America’s auto industry to thrive again.