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UAW willing to fight GM to unionize 2 new battery plants

The UAW is prepared to battle General Motors at two new battery cell factories if the automaker won't allow a simplified process to organize workers there. At issue in the new plants, which are under construction and are joint-ventures that aren’t automatically UAW represented, is a process that would allow workers to check a box on cards to allow them to organize, versus a drawn-out, traditional vote process. The outcome of organizing the plants will carry far-reaching consequences for future electric vehicle workers, a point fueling the UAW's sense of urgency for this upcoming battle. The union leadership knows organizing these two plants is "a critical event for the UAW and they know the importance of it," said Marick Masters, professor of business at Wayne State University. Industry experts say it is inevitable that there will be more future EV battery cell plants across the auto industry, so the unionization at these two GM plants could be precedent-setting for workers down the road. It is critical the union's local leaders prepare an organizing campaign as soon as possible, Masters said.
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GM's move to EVs will mean some jobs lost, some new jobs created

About 35,000 hourly jobs could perish across the car industry as GM and other automakers move to EVs, said Marick Masters, a Wayne State University business professor who specializes in labor issues and has studied the potential impact of transitioning to EVs. GM has said all of its light-duty vehicles will be zero-emissions by 2035 and that GM will be a carbon neutral company by 2040. The typical internal combustion engine has about 2,000 parts in it, Masters said. Whereas EVs use far fewer parts, some parts might be bigger such as batteries, but fewer people are needed overall to make EVs. "There will be some job loss," Masters said. "The question is how much of that can be mitigated?" If the move to EVs is accelerated by politicians pushing to control climate change and improve infrastructure with more charging stations, that will only hasten the “dislocation of jobs," Masters said. “I think anybody has reason to be worried," Masters said. "You also have to factor in how popular are electric vehicles going to be to foreign competitors, what is the cost to make them, how profitable will they be versus internal combustion ... all of that impacts the performance of the company and that will impact jobs, too.”
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Sources: GM offers 2% raises to UAW; company ends strikers' health care

General Motors stopped paying for health care coverage for striking workers Tuesday, the company confirmed. That means striking GM union workers are eligible for union-paid COBRA to continue their health care benefits. The latest development added to tension as GM and the UAW returned to the bargaining table Tuesday morning. The two sides negotiated until about 9 p.m. Monday, sources said. Meanwhile, more details emerged about GM's offer to the UAW. Two sources familiar with GM's offer said it called for a 2% wage increase for the first and third year of the four-year contract and 2% lump sum payments the second and fourth years. UAW members are emotional after GM moved to shutter U.S. plants, so the fear that the automaker wants to break the union is understandable to Marick Masters, business professor at Wayne State University who specializes in labor. But he said, it's not realistic. “If that were the case, they could take more draconian measures, such as hiring other workers, encouraging people to break the line and go back to work or GM could have had a workforce ready to hire before this even started,” said Masters. GM likely knows it will have a union for the foreseeable future, which is why it is structuring a contract that allows it to be more cost competitive against nonunion automakers, he said. That means having the ability to have a larger temporary workforce and multiple wage tiers is crucial to the carmaker. But the two sides must reach an agreement in short order for several reasons, he said.  
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Michigan Mobility Institute begins crafting curriculum in partnership with Wayne State

Michigan Mobility Institute executive director Jessica Robinson says the process of creating a first-of-its-kind Master of Mobility degree is "well underway," thanks to the institute's new partnership with Wayne State University. The institute made headlines earlier this year when it announced its intention to create the high-level educational credential in mobility. Robinson says Wayne State's College of Engineering was an ideal inaugural educational partner to collaborate with in creating the coursework and formal structure for the degree. Wayne State's existing dual focus on both cutting-edge research work and connecting its grads to jobs in the field also is a plus. WSU professors are already working on classes that are applicable to next-generation mobility careers, which will form an important base upon which to build a regimen of highly specialized mobility coursework. Wayne State will provide the Michigan Mobility Institute's physical campus for the time being. Other space needs may arise with time, and if they do Robinson says the institute will work with WSU and other partners to create them.
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Wayne State University, Michigan Mobility Institute launch new mobility center

Wayne State University and the Michigan Mobility Institute announced their collaborative design of the Center for Advanced Mobility and curriculum on Monday. The expanding engineering curriculum will offer programs focusing on "autonomous driving, connectivity, smart infrastructure and electrification," according to a news release from the Center for Advanced Mobility at Wayne State University. The center will be part of the university's Industry Innovation Centers and is set to launch in the fall. "This will be a leading global center for the future of mobility," said Farshad Fotouhi, dean of the College of Engineering. "The Center for Advanced Mobility will be the epicenter for academic and startup activity in the mobility sector for students, researchers, and global corporate partners in Detroit." The college also plans to offer a Master of Science in Robotics in the fall of 2020.
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Detroit, FCA work to match residents to Jeep jobs

Experts say there could be some challenges in finding qualified Detroiters to fill and maintain the production and skilled trade positions to a level that would please city leaders. City officials, however, say the initial response it has received from interested Detroit residents — more than 11,000 — signals that many Detroiters could be willing and able to take on the new jobs. Detroit is leading the effort to screen applicants for the positions. It’s going to be critical that Detroiters are prepared when they apply for the jobs, said Marick Masters, a professor of management at Wayne State University’s Mike Ilitch School of Business. “Today’s auto workers are much more skilled," he said. "It requires a lot more knowledge than in the past. People aren’t just going to… like they did in the '30s and '40s, walk into the plant and say 'I’m ready' and they’re going to take you that very day. I think what we have to do in Detroit is make certain that our workforce is as ready as possible.”
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UAW grows strike fund, membership as workers head into wage talks

Autoworkers say they’re feeling unappreciated these days. They made wage and benefit sacrifices when times were bad. Now, after record sales, layoffs loom. The shocking announcement by General Motors last month to close four U.S. factories was seen, in part, as a message to the UAW to prepare for cost cuts during next year’s worker contract talks. But the labor union is not without leverage. It has more than $760 million in its strike fund. And officials aren’t afraid to use it. Everyone is watching to see what happens in coming months. These contracts are complicated and the process can be contentious. But it is highly unlikely the UAW would organize a strike to protest anything until the legal agreements allow for such activity, said UAW sources close to the leadership. But these are turbulent political times with all players trying to navigate a “contentious administration,” said Marick Masters, a business professor at Wayne State University. GM has angered autoworkers and politicians with its abrupt announcement about expected closures. And sometimes workers simply don’t care about protocol if they feel there’s nothing to lose, Masters said. “Look at the wildcat strikes that occurred among teachers in West Virginia and other states. Those worked,” he said. “There’s a growing militancy among some workers and people who have reached perhaps the tipping point. People take extreme action when they feel there’s no alternative.”

Automotive Innovation Center offers hands-on education

Innovation is at the heart of engineering and manufacturing - and sometimes these advancements can come from unexpected places. To foster pursuit of these advancements, automotive seating and electrical systems manufacturer Lear has taken over a historic building in downtown Detroit to launch their new Innovation Center. The center is planned as a hub for creativity, automotive advanced concept development and hands-on learning for Detroit college students studying engineering and design. As part of an effort to revitalize the Capitol Park area, the new space will allow for development of new automotive products and technologies, encourage non-automotive business opportunities and foster collaboration with Wayne State University’s College of Engineering  and the College for Creative Studies.