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Media Matters / Molly Butler

Research/Study Research/Study

Right-wing media misleadingly attribute UAW strike to electric vehicle transition

On September 15, nearly 13,000 members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union went on strike against three major American auto manufacturers — General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler-parent Stellantis — after they failed to reach a labor negotiations deal. Right-wing media have insisted that President Joe Biden's policies incentivizing a transition to electric vehicles are harming the autoworkers and and causing the strike. But the UAW supports the transition to EVs and says the strike, which has expanded to 38 locations in 20 states, is about getting fair pay amid record automaker profits.

  • Facing unresolved pay disputes since the 2008 financial crisis, UAW workers are striking for better jobs amid a rising EV market

    • United Auto Workers are striking for better pay. On September 15, nearly 13,000 members went on strike against the Big Three automakers. A week later, that strike has expanded to 38 locations in 20 states. UAW has asked for a 36% raise for members over the duration of their four-year contract, as well as “a 32-hour work week for 40 hours of pay as well as a reinstatement of traditional pensions, improved retirement health care, and guarantees on job security.” [Vox, 9/16/23; Associated Press 9/22/23]
    • The U.S. auto industry is booming as production and demand for EVs are on the rise. The U.S. auto industry is entering one of its biggest factory-building booms in years, a surge of spending largely driven by the shift to electric vehicles. According to the Rocky Mountain Institute, gas car sales peaked in 2017 and have been falling at 5% a year since then. “By the end of this decade, gas car sales will fall to between 14 million and 38 million cars a year.” [Electrek, 9/14/23]
    • The Inflation Reduction Act has unleashed historic investment in electric vehicle manufacturing and infrastructure. The Inflation Reduction Act, which allocated a historic $369 billion in climate and energy provisions, has transformed the clean energy landscape by funding rebates for home energy efficiency and electrification projects and electric vehicle production across the U.S. Since its passage, auto companies have accelerated investments in domestic EV manufacturing, announcing 65 new electric vehicle projects, totaling $44.1 billion in investments and thousands of new jobs. [Media Matters, 8/19/22; Climate Power, 7/25/23]
    • UAW supports “the transition to a clean auto industry” and endorsed the Inflation Reduction Act. UAW supported the Inflation Reduction Act in a public statement, noting the law “makes critical investments in U.S manufacturing to help ensure new vehicles and emerging technologies and are built in America for decades to come, lowers the costs of life-saving drugs and health care insurance, tackles climate change in a meaningful way, and reduces the deficit.” UAW President Shawn Fain has repeatedly said the union supports Biden’s electric vehicle push. “The UAW supports and is ready for the transition to a clean auto industry,” Fain said in a statement to Politico. [UAW.org, accessed 9/19/23; Politico, 9/15/23]
    • The 2008 financial crisis, not the clean energy transition, set the stage for the autoworker strike. After the U.S. government bailed out the American auto manufacturing industry in 2008, automakers enacted several cost-cutting measures that reduced worker pay and slashed benefits. Since then, the industry has made a full recovery. Workers, however, argue that manufacturers have not adequately shared the financial benefits of that recovery with them. “Over the past 14 years the auto industry has seen massive sales and record profits, and while workers have some profit sharing, they haven’t been able to share appropriately in those successes — and in a way, they’re still paying for the bailout.” [Vox, 9/16/23]
  • Republican politicians and right-wing media misleadingly claim that the UAW strike is driven by the transition to electric vehicles

    • On America’s Newsroom, Rep. John James (R-MI): “This administration doesn't care about the UAW, it doesn’t care about the automotive industry, it cares about their climate change religion and they have no idea of what their policies are doing for average Americans who need to work to pay for their livings.” James continued: “This EV comply or die that is being pushed down the D.C. bureaucracy from Joe Biden, who doesn't care about working Americans despite what he may tell you. … They want to put this Green New Deal policy on all Americans. And they are building the middle class in China on the backs of ours and we have to stop it.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 9/19/23]
    • NewsNation’s Leland Vittert: “The United Auto Workers are on strike in large part because of subsidies for electric vehicles, and Union Joe has abandoned the union to keep the climate orthodoxy.” [NewsNation, On Balance with Leland Vittert, 9/18/23]
    • On Fox Business, conservative commentator and former fast food executive Andy Puzder claimed the true “enemy” of the autoworkers are “the Biden administration,” “climate alarmists,” and “the Democratic Party” who are “pushing these electric vehicles on the American people.” “I think [autoworkers] are aiming at the wrong target. I don’t think their enemy here are the Big Three automakers — they’re willing to make concessions, they want to work with them. I think their enemy is the Biden administration, these climate alarmists, the Democratic Party, that are pushing these electric vehicles on the American people,” Puzder said. [Fox Business, The Evening Edit, 9/18/23]
    • Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro said it was “no coincidence” that the strike happened during Joe Biden’s presidency, blaming the administration’s electric vehicle “mandates” for the strike: “It’s not a coincidence that this is happening in the middle of Joe Biden’s administration,” Shapiro argued. “Automakers are getting squeezed. They’re getting squeezed because Joe Biden’s new mandate that everybody shift over to electric vehicles is creating massive profitability problems at companies that are largely invested in gas-powered engines.” [The Daily Wire, The Ben Shapiro Show, 9/18/23]
    • Fox News host Sean Hannity blamed the UAW strike on “years of green energy regulations that are wreaking havoc on the U.S.” “Biden can’t even get an endorsement from the United Auto Workers union,” said Hannity. “They are now striking after years of green energy regulations that are wreaking havoc on U.S. automakers, forcing electric vehicles on a country that doesn’t want them, and on workers who are going to lose their jobs.” [Fox News, Hannity, 9/18/23]
    • Rep. Majorie Taylor Green (R-GA) said autoworkers are striking because the “Green New Deal is now in effect.” “These autoworkers are striking, they’re striking the Big Three. But they're also striking at a time when the Green New Deal is now in effect.” [Fox News, Sunday Morning Futures With Maria Bartiromo, 9/17/23]
    • Fox and Friends co-host Carley Shimkus: “A lot of these autoworkers are worried about the push for electric vehicles.” Shimkus continued: “The United Auto Workers union supported the Inflation Reduction Act which gives a tax credit to people who buy EVs, so I know these union workers are angry with the auto companies. Now some of them are angry with the Biden administration. They should direct some of that ire towards the union as well for supporting that.” [Fox News, Fox and Friends Sunday, 9/17/23]
    • On X, climate denier Steve Milloy claimed EVs are “hurting auto workers” and “doing zero for the environment,” adding, “You can't spell evil without EV.” [Twitter/X, 9/16/23]
    • Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton on X: “The Big Three car companies can't afford to give big raises to the union workers because the car companies are losing so much money trying to keep up with extremist left mandates to make electric vehicles that no one wants to buy.” [Twitter/X, 9/16/23]
    • Breitbart’s John Binder wrote: “Trump is among few Republicans defending auto workers against Biden’s green energy agenda.” “The rapid EV push without first establishing United States-based supply chains runs the risk of eliminating millions of American jobs,” Binder added. [Breitbart, 9/15/23]
    • Fox Business host Charles Payne called policies supporting the transition to EVs a “deep, dark hole.” “I can see why these unions are pissed off with him. President Biden has been using poor people, Black people, hispanics. He uses historic problems and then he uses that as a facade, or front, and what does he do with it? He pays off student loans for the richest, wealthiest, most blessed people on the planet … so he’s using the facade on these people. Some of them are waking up. The UAW is saying, hey, don't pimp us anymore, we want our rights, we want to make money, because you're giving these car companies hundreds of billions to go down this deep, dark hole of EVs when nobody wants them.” [Fox News, America Reports, 9/14/23]
    • Breitbart News Economics Editor John Carney claimed that a “rush toward electric vehicles will mean a rapid decline in payrolls for autoworkers” and is a “betrayal of the autoworkers by the Biden administration.” [Breitbart, 9/14/23]
    • Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) characterized the EV transition as “traitorous” to autoworkers, unions, and American consumers. “Forcing drivers to buy electric vehicles to fulfill the Democrats’ Green New Deal climate cult agenda is traitorous to auto workers, traitorous to auto unions, and traitorous to every American auto consumer.” [Twitter/X, 9/14/23]