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Unions and advocacy groups push Senate to retain electric vehicle tax credits

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Washington – A group of more than 60 unions, environmental groups and other advocacy organizations urged the Senate on Wednesday to retain controversial tax credits for electric vehicles that would give unionized auto workers a boost.

The proposed tax credit included in the Democrats’ Build Back Better bill would offer consumers up to $ 12,500 off an electric vehicle, including $ 4,500 for vehicles made in the United States for companies with collective agreements.

The provision – drafted by Michigan Representative Dan Kildee of Flint Township and Senator Debbie Stabenow of Lansing – would favor the Detroit Three, which are the only US-based automakers with unionized membership.

The group, which included United Auto Workers and the AFL-CIO as well as environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the Union of Concerned Scientists, argued in a letter to senators that the proposal would encourage high labor standards in the transition to electric vehicles. , strengthen the economy and push companies to continue manufacturing in the United States.

“The collective bargaining bonus under the (Build Back Better Act) recognizes and rewards companies that invest more in workers and encourages improvements in wages and working conditions that benefit union and non-union workers,” wrote the groups.

Unionized workers earn higher wages and get better benefits than non-union workers, they say, and the credits will help push automakers to relocate manufacturing and reach collective agreements with workers to take full advantage of the credits. for consumption.

Automakers around the world are investing billions in transitioning their fleets from gasoline and diesel vehicles to electric vehicles. The United Auto Workers supported the transition, but warned the changes should come with protections for workers, as electric vehicles require fewer parts and people to assemble and maintain.

The proposal has met with strong opposition from trading partners of Canada, Mexico and the European Union, who argue that it discriminates against imports from their countries and could have an impact. affect trade deals, and foreign automakers, who claim it unfairly harms American workers who choose not to join a union.

But perhaps the most influential critical voice was Senator Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, who called the proposal “bad” and “not American.”

Manchin is a decisive vote in the equally divided Senate and has immense power over the final form of the Democrats’ proposal. West Virginia is home to a plant operated by Toyota Motor Corp., which has been a strong advocate for removing provisions from the bill.

The Biden administration has upheld the tax credit provisions and has not indicated any upcoming changes.

However, negotiations between Manchin and others on Capitol Hill continue – and it remains to be seen whether the provisions will survive a procedural hurdle in the Senate to determine whether they can be included in the final version of the bill.

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Twitter: @rbeggin