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The auto sector’s transition from EVs to electric vehicles requires protections for workers and the environment.
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The auto sector’s transition from EVs to electric vehicles requires protections for workers and the environment.

Rivian R1T all electric truck is pictured at an event held by the electric vehicle startup in Mill Valley, California, U.S.A, January 25, 2020. REUTERS/Nathan Frandino/File photo

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DETROIT (Reuters), March 9th, 2009 – Auto companies must take into consideration their communities and workers by implementing higher environmental protections as well as higher wages for electric vehicles. This was the consensus of a panel made up of investors, labor officials, and human rights advocates.

Global pressure from countries and regions such as China and Europe to reduce carbon emissions is driving the global auto industry to switch to EVs.

Investors are putting increasing pressure on companies regarding environmental, social and corporate governance issues. Automakers are not only pushing ahead with the EV launch, but they also work to ensure a steady supply of battery minerals.

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“Every business is going to be significantly affected by transitioning to a net-zero economic,” Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs stated at a conference hosted by the Council of Institutional Investors. The group consists of public, union and corporate employee benefit funds.

He stated that companies have a responsibility towards their investors and to their workers to prepare them for this transition. “We cannot let them hide in the sand pretending they don’t have to make any changes.

The speakers at the Washington event stated that part of this push includes access to union representation in plants and good-paying jobs.

Cindy Estrada, vice-president of the United Auto Workers union which represents most U.S. hourly employees at General Motors Co. (GM.N), Ford Motor Co. (F.N), and Stellantis, (STLA.MI), stated that the key to ensuring worker jobs and wages during the EV transition is to protect them.

She stated that she could see herself as a “transition worker” and that workplace standards would be lower due to the increasing number of EV batteries being produced in the United States. She estimated that the average hourly rate for battery plant workers is $17, as opposed to the $30-plus salaries earned by current engine workers.

Elon Musk, CEO at Tesla Inc (TSLA.O), invited UAW officials to hold a vote to elect workers at the EV leader’s California facility. Though UAW officials did not comment on the invitation, Musk has been known to be hostile to the union in the recent past. Continue reading

Ten advocacy groups, including Sierra Club (Greenpeace) and Greenpeace, urged Rivian Automobil Inc (RIVN.O), an EV startup to join labor unions, in November. Rivian’s Illinois facility workers are not unionized. Continue reading

Richard Kent, Amnesty International’s researcher for human rights and energy transition, stated that investors need to leverage their relationships with companies to ask tough questions, and push for greater transparency.

SOC Investment Group, an advisor for union pension funds totaling more than $250 billion in assets, hosted Wednesday’s panel. SOC had Rivian quizzed last fall about its battery supply chain.

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Reporting by Ben Klayman, Detroit
Matthew Lewis edits

Our Standards The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles

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