How electric vehicles have aided labor and environmental groups in collaborating

Labor unions and environmental groups have teamed up to advocate for improved salaries and employment conditions for autoworkers while leaving the door open for the young EV industry to unionize, as the Biden administration moves to expand incentives for the manufacture of electric vehicles. Last month, officials from some of the country’s most powerful environmental organizations wrote to Toyota’s top executives, blasting the manufacturer for ostensibly supporting the electric vehicle revolution but fighting against a planned tax credit for the union-made electric vehicles.

The tax credit, which would offer buyers $4,500 if they bought an electric vehicle from a unionized US manufacturer — currently only Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis NV qualify – has been vehemently opposed by Tesla, Honda, Hyundai, and Nissan. Toyota, on the other hand, went a step farther and began advertising in newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and trade publications, arguing that the federal incentive would harm non-union autoworkers. (All-electric vehicles, whether union or non-union, would be eligible for a $7,500 tax credit.)

Toyota was chastised by 12 organizations, including the League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, and Evergreen Action, for “greenwash[ing] its image” and “extensive and unacceptable” lobbying. Toyota’s assertion that rewarding electric vehicles with the union labor would harm the country’s climate ambitions was dismissed by the groups, who added that the company’s “manipulation of the political structure and weakening action on climate is not unique to the United States.”

This follows another letter from key climate groups encouraging Rivian, an electric vehicle start-up, to respect workers’ rights and allow a card verification process if they choose to unionize. Rivan, which went public in November in the largest IPO in the United States since Facebook, plans to increase vehicle production in the coming year.

Friends of the Earth, Sunrise Movement, Greenpeace USA, and were among the ten climate organizations that signed the letter, which stated that they had contacted Rivian informally in August. The groups decided to make their desire for labor peace public after two months of no reaction. In the spring, the United Auto Workers’ president declared that his union will organize EV workers.

Labor unions, environmental groups, and important liberal think institutes have joined forces to argue that cutting emissions while establishing unionized jobs in manufacturing in the US is not only achievable but also beneficial for consumers and manufacturers.

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