- President Joe Biden's "Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad" signed Jan. 27 included directives to put the U.S. on a path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050, which will include "opportunities to create well-paying union jobs to build a modern and sustainable infrastructure," according to the order. U.S. electric vehicle makers, in particular, will receive a direct boost from the federal government.
- "The federal government owns and maintains an enormous fleet of vehicles," Biden said during a press briefing Jan. 27. "With today's executive order, combined with the Buy American executive order I signed on Monday, we're going to harness the purchasing power of the federal government to buy clean, zero-emission vehicles that are made and sourced by union workers right here in America." The change will result in 1 million jobs in the auto industry, he said. The executive order requires clean and zero-emission vehicles for federal, state, local and tribal government fleets, including United States Postal Service vehicles. The plan also aims to ensure that union jobs are integral to maintaining the fleets, while spurring the creation of union manufacturing jobs.
- Biden has a goal to create a 100% carbon-pollution-free American electric sector by 2035, he said at the press briefing. It is required that every federal infrastructure investment reduces climate pollution and takes steps to accelerate clean energy and transmission projects, thus creating jobs in construction, manufacturing, engineering and the skilled-trades, according to the order. A White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy will be led by Gina McCarthy, the first-ever national climate advisor and deputy national climate advisor.
As automakers are central to the federal push for unionized work, the industry may find itself at the forefront of trends in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), recruiting and diversity and inclusion practices, as well.
Electric car maker Tesla, for example, has a 5.3 million square foot manufacturing plant in Fremont, California. Prior to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., a report by the Los Angeles County Economic Development released March 1, 2020 found that electric vehicle industry growth in California created 275,600 jobs statewide and shifted "the EV industry's U.S. footprint from Michigan to California," according to the report. Tesla is building a Cybertruck plant in Austin, Texas, CEO Elon Musk announced in July. At 2,000 acres, it will be the company's largest auto assembly plant, Construction Dive reported.
Musk has expressed that he's focused on skills-based hiring rather than college degree requirements for offered positions. In February 2020, Musk used Twitter to recruit for the company's artificial intelligence team. "Educational background is irrelevant, but all must pass hardcore coding test," he said. "A Ph.D. is definitely not required," Musk said in response to a Twitter user; adding, "Don't care if you even graduated high school."
General Motors CEO Mary Barra announced Jan. 28 the company plans to only offer electric vehicles by 2035 and become carbon neutral — removing emissions from all of its products — by 2040. Earlier this month, Barra announced plans to "introduce 30 new electric vehicles by 2025 and spend $27 billion as part of a commitment to put everybody in an [electric vehicle]," she said in the LinkedIn post. In October, the company renamed its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant in Michigan "Factory Zero," turning the site into its first dedicated electric vehicle plant.
Under Barra's directive, General Motors has been on a mission for zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion through electric vehicles as well as self-driving, connected vehicles and shared mobility services, Gerald Johnson, executive vice president of global manufacturing at General Motors told HR Dive during the Black Engineer of the Year Awards conference in Washington, D.C., in February 2020.
"When she stepped up and said zero, zero, zero, I don't think anyone knew what that would look like," Johnson said. Over the past few years, as the company began shifting its resources and strategy in that direction, "it has helped us to understand where we're going, why we're trying to get there, and why it matters," he said. In the process, General Motors is also supporting a diverse talent pipeline for STEM positions by creating points of access for underrepresented and diverse groups at an early age, including high school students, according to Johnson.
Biden did not provide a timeframe in which the federal government would switch to electric vehicles. To replace the fleet of vehicles, it could cost $20 billion or more, Reuters reported. The executive order's focus on unions in auto manufacturing follows the platform of Biden's presidential campaign. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was nominated by Biden as labor secretary Jan. 8. Walsh is the former president of Laborers' Union Local 223 in Boston.
In addition to the auto industry, employment will be needed in various sectors to reach clean energy goals, Biden said. "Transforming the American electric sector to produce power without carbon pollution will be a tremendous spur to job creation," the president said at the press briefing. "We're going to need scientists, the national labs, land-grant universities, historical Black colleges and universities to innovate the technologies needed to generate, store, and transmit clean electric — clean electricity across distances, and battery technology, and a whole range of other things. We need engineers to design them and workers to manufacture them. We need iron workers and welders to install them."