The UAW is already involved as it tries to organize the Normal, Illinois factory.
California-based Rivian continues to be one of the auto industry's few EV start-up success stories, but it has not been smooth sailing. The latest problem does not involve the company's two vehicles, the R1T and R1S, specifically, but rather the Normal, Illinois factory and the safety of the workers.
Per Bloomberg, around a dozen factory employees have accused the automaker of safety violations. These complaints have already been filed with federal regulators in conjunction with the UAW. This is a big deal for the UAW because it's been trying to organize the plant for the past year. To date, Rivian factory employees are non-union. Allegedly, Rivian ignored safety hazards and placed less priority on safety resources.
Workers also claim several on-the-job injuries, such as a crashed hand, broken foot, a sliced ear, and broken ribs. There was even an alleged instance when management removed damaged electrical cables from the garbage and told workers to use them.
In short, workers and the UAW claim Rivian is cutting corners to help scale up production to meet high demand. As pressure to produce increased, workers say their safety was de-prioritized.
Rivian, however, disputes these claims. A company spokesperson stated that the dozen or so complaints represent only 0.2 percent of the 6,700 plant employees. "Creating a safe and inspiring environment is a daily practice we expect of every Rivian employee and is part of our operating procedures," the spokesperson added.
Those dozen employees filed the alleged safety violations over the past two months. One has since left the company. Some of these reports detail "many near misses" with powerful industrial equipment, such as trucks, which "frequently veer into pedestrian aisles" and bulldoze racks in a way that could result in people getting hit.
But things were not always like this. "At first, it was really great," said a UAW member who joined Rivian last year. "Slowly, as production kept climbing, the concern for safety dropped." Rivian has been on a hiring spree lately, poaching engineers, assembly technicians, and factory floor managers from the likes of GM and Ford, so they know a thing or two about vehicle manufacturing.
The Normal factory has a production capacity of up to 150,000 vehicles annually, but that's still not enough to satisfy the high demand. The solution is to construct a new $5 billion factory outside of Atlanta, Georgia but it won't be up and running until 2028, assuming there are no delays.