Time: Marick Masters on union jobs in jeopardy

The growth of electric-vehicle manufacturing in the U.S. could drive a renaissance for workers, creating new paths for unionization, training opportunities and better salaries. Or it could lead to lower wages, slashed benefits and a smaller workforce—and that’s just for the jobs that remain in the U.S. Making an electric vehicle is a less labor-intensive process than producing one of its gas-powered counterparts; many of the components under the hood of a car with an internal combustion engine simply aren’t needed in an electric vehicle. Automakers estimate that they will require 30% less labor to produce an electric vehicle than a gas-powered one. Many companies in the supply chain that make parts for cars will cease to exist entirely. That creates new problems for the workers who remain. With fewer auto jobs than job seekers, companies may try to pay industry workers less. That’s difficult to do under current union contracts, but many auto companies have already begun to outsource work to subsidiaries and partners that are not unionized. “A significant number of jobs are in jeopardy,” says Marick Masters, a professor of management at Wayne State University. “And some of the jobs that are going to replace them may be nonunion, paying considerably less than the going rate.”

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