Detroit Free Press: Marick Masters on the future of labor union jobs

At a UAW hall in Warren last September, then-nominee Joe Biden touted his profuse support for labor unions, calling their members "the best craftsmen and women" in the world and crediting them with creating the American middle class. He promised to create "good paying union jobs" across the U.S. For Detroit's automakers and their employees, it comes at a potentially perilous time: With California and other states saying they want zero-emission vehicles to be the only ones sold in the coming years, automakers are moving to bring dozens of electric or electric-hybrid vehicles to the market. But it takes fewer employees to make those vehicles — and the battery manufacturers, where much of the work is done, are more apt to be nonunion shops. On the other hand, climate change policies could result in more union jobs for industries like energy production and construction, said Marick Masters, a labor expert and professor at the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University in Detroit. He sees Biden's pro-labor rhetoric as deliberate, saying, "They are concerned about sending a message that they want union jobs."

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