WASHINGTON/DETROIT (Reuters) – United Auto Workers (UAW) President Rory Gamble held a virtual meeting last week with a top White House environmental official as the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden moves to reverse the rollback in vehicle emissions rules adopted under his predecessor.
A spokesman for the Detroit-based union confirmed on Tuesday Gamble met with White House domestic climate change adviser Gina McCarthy and other members of the Biden administration.
“It was a very open and positive dialogue,” Gamble said in a statement, praising the Biden administration’s “commitment to regular dialogue with the UAW.”
The Biden administration has started discussions with the automobile sector about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, McCarthy told Reuters last week.
McCarthy also spoke recently to General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra about the Detroit automaker’s aspiration to halt sales of all gas- and diesel-powered vehicles by 2035, the automaker confirmed.
The White House is preparing to begin talks with automakers about revising vehicle emission standards.
Gamble, speaking at a Detroit Automotive Press Association event on Wednesday, said the union has spoken with the Biden administration about electric and self-driving vehicles, the development of battery cell technology and U.S. manufacturing jobs more broadly.
“It is truly refreshing to have the opportunity to pick up the phone and get a call into the president or his team,” he told reporters.
The UAW has also joined forces with automakers, dealers and suppliers to urge the White House to take “urgent action” over a growing production crisis sparked by a global semiconductor chip shortage.
In a previously unreported Jan. 19 letter to Biden adviser Brian Deese, the UAW and the heads of associations representing automakers, auto dealers and parts manufacturers asked the incoming administration to consider “urging major silicon wafer foundries to ramp-up production of automotive grade wafers by either expanding production capacity or by a short-term rebalancing of a modest portion of current wafer supply.”
The letter, seen by Reuters, added the shortage would result “in production loss of hundreds of thousands of vehicles, if not more, in the first quarter alone. These losses, combined with a larger expected economic impact in Q2 and Q3, require urgent action.”
GM said on Tuesday it was extending production cuts at three North American plants until at least mid-March, and on Wednesday warned the shortage could hurt earnings by as much as $2 billion.
Gamble said the shortage underscores the need to curtail outsourcing of U.S. manufacturing jobs to other countries, pointing out the vast majority of chips used in the auto sector are made overseas.
The shortage stems from a confluence of factors as auto manufacturers, which shut plants for two months during the COVID-19 pandemic last year, compete with consumer electronics manufacturers for chip supplies.
The chip shortage has affected many automakers, including Toyota, Volkswagen, Stellantis, Ford Motor Co, Renault, Subaru, Nissan, Honda and Mazda.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri and Aurora Ellis)