The Belvidere Plant's Transition to an EV Plant Has a Bright Future
The United Auto Workers’ historic strike results in important benefits, including a path for reopening the Belvidere Assembly Plant in Illinois.
Co-authored by Marcie Pedraza
The United Auto Workers (UAW) fought through a historic strike to win significant benefits in a tentative deal that includes a path for reopening the Belvidere Assembly Plant in Illinois. This decision signifies a significant shift in the automotive industry and holds the promise of far-reaching benefits for both the workforce and the environment, which is what we’ve been advocating for.
Stellantis—which produces Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and RAM vehicles—is set to invest $4.7 billion in Belvidere. This substantial investment aims to reopen the existing facility to produce midsize trucks on two shifts and will establish a new electric vehicle (EV) battery plant in Belvidere, which will generate an estimated 1,300 additional jobs. Stellantis will also locate a megahub for parts distribution there.
The closure of the Belvidere Assembly Plant had dealt a devastating blow to local workers and the community. However, its transformation into an EV production facility presents an opportunity to create well-paying jobs and align with the state's environmental goals. As an environmental activist and a union electrician who spent several years at the Belvidere Assembly Plant, we understand how this represents a huge victory for our union family, the city of Belvidere, and the entire state of Illinois. After 65 plant closures in the past 20 years, this reopening of a local plant is a historic win for the UAW and workers everywhere.
The transition to EVs holds particular significance for every community but especially for those like the Southeast Side of Chicago, where pollution from heavy industry and diesel exhaust is always top of mind. Shifting to EVs isn't merely a technological shift; it's a lifeline for our well-being and health.
For far too long, communities like ours have been disproportionately affected by pollution and its associated health problems, such as asthma and heart disease. Transportation, particularly in the form of cars and trucks, is a major contributor to air pollution. It's high time we acknowledge the impact of this pollution on our health and take decisive action.
The encouraging news is that we're not merely acknowledging the problem; we're actively seeking solutions. It's imperative that we explore innovative ways to reduce our carbon footprint, including transitioning not only passenger vehicles but also electric semitrucks. These large vehicles have a substantial impact on neighborhood pollution and are widespread in what are often termed "sacrifice zones."
Stellantis and other vehicle manufacturers in Illinois, along with their workforces, stand to gain immensely from retrofitting existing plants for EV production. The benefits are abundantly clear. This transition isn't just about the future of transportation—it's about the future of our communities and the environment.
We are cognizant of the challenges we face, including skepticism surrounding electric vehicles. However, we’re optimistic because we believe that the benefits are too great to ignore.
We also understand that we can't achieve this transformation in isolation. Blue-collar workers and environmental justice activists must work together, recognizing that these issues are interconnected. Good-quality clean energy jobs are a win-win for all.
The Belvidere Assembly Plant can become a symbol of what's possible when we invest in the future of clean transportation in Illinois. We can create quality union jobs, improve air quality, and build a brighter future for our community. Together, we can turn the tide and make a difference for our community and the planet.