Using Electric Vehicles as the Excuse to Lay Off Workers

Ford Motor Co. has announced it is laying off roughly 3,000 workers. The layoffs do not impact factory workers yet. This round of layoffs targets workers in the U.S., Canada and India, about 2,000 salaried white-collar workers and 1,000 contracted employees that work for outside agencies. This is just the first round of layoffs out of several thousand that the company claims it is planning.

The company says the layoffs are necessary as it makes its transition into the mass production of electric vehicles. The production of electric vehicles requires fewer mechanical parts, and auto companies claim they require about 30% fewer workers. Because of this, auto companies are eager to reduce their workforces in order to boost their profits as they make this transition.

So far among the U.S. auto companies, Ford is the first to make any recent layoff announcements. But it’s likely this is just the first of many planned layoffs in the industry, as corporations use the transition to electric vehicles as the main excuse to reduce their workforce in order to reduce their overall labor costs and maximize their profits. Also, Ford has made it clear that the estimated 11,000 workers to be hired at their four new massive battery factories under construction in Kentucky and Tennessee will not automatically be part of the United Auto Workers union. Currently, non-unionized auto workers make about 20% less in wages than unionized auto workers.

It is clear that Ford and other auto companies would like to use the cover of the transition to electric vehicles as a way to reorganize the auto workforce into something that has fewer jobs and lower pay.

There’s one small wrinkle in their master plan, though — the hundreds of thousands of auto workers in the U.S. These workers are part of an enormous and potentially powerful working class that faces a variety of shared concerns, from the rising cost of living, intense working conditions, disappearing pensions, out of control health care and housing costs, climate destruction and much more. If auto workers can organize to resist these attacks, they could inspire other workers in other industries to fight alongside them. Just because the auto companies see layoffs and dollar signs in electric vehicles doesn’t mean workers will just roll over for them.