It’s Wednesday, December 14, and a newly unionized EV battery maker is getting a big loan from the federal government.

Arctic tern

The U.S. Department of Energy announced this week that it’s giving a $2.5 billion loan to Ultium Cells, a joint venture between the automaker General Motors and the battery company LG Energy Solution, to help build electric vehicle battery facilities in Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.

Together, the plants are expected to create or support more than 11,000 jobs and help the U.S. meet growing demand for zero-emission vehicles — without relying on components built overseas. According to an industry analysis published in February, the U.S. market for EVs is expected to grow from $28.24 billion in 2021 to $137.43 billion in 2028.

“This loan will jumpstart the domestic battery cell production needed to reduce our reliance on other countries to meet increased demand,” U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement.

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The loan will complement other steps the Biden administration has made to boost domestic EV manufacturing, including tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act that will only be available for vehicles whose battery components are primarily made or assembled in North America. President Joe Biden’s goal is for EVs to account for half of the United States’ new passenger vehicle sales by 2030.

Meanwhile, workers are organizing to ensure that the ascendant EV industry doesn’t leave them behind. Just days before the Biden administration’s loan was announced, employees at Ultium Cells’ existing plant in Warren, Ohio, voted 710 to 16 to join the United Auto Workers, becoming the first factory originally built for EVs and components to unionize. The move is expected to give Ultium workers more leverage over wages, work hours, and safety procedures, and proponents hope it sets a precedent for other companies.

Biden applauded the Ultium Cells employees, saying that good-paying jobs in EV batteries and semiconductors will simultaneously address the climate crisis and support the country’s clean-energy supply chains.

“In my administration,” Biden said in a statement, “American and union workers can and will lead the world in manufacturing once again.”

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