Tesla CEO Elon Musk has invited the United Auto Workers (UAW) to hold a union vote at the Tesla factory, stating that Tesla “will do nothing to stop” the voting process.
According to the auto-tech website Electrek, it is the latest in a years-long saga between the UAW and Tesla, in which Tesla has been found to violate labor laws in unfairly cracking down on the union organization.
Tesla’s workforce is non-union, unlike the “Big Three” American automakers — GM, Ford, and Chrysler (now part of Stellantis). But Tesla’s main plant in Fremont, California, was previously the “NUMMI” plant, a joint venture between GM and Toyota, which used UAW union labor.
The UAW has wanted to unionize Tesla for some time now, particularly given the plant’s union past. There was a significant push from UAW in 2017-2018, but union efforts have not gotten particularly far as of now.
Today’s invitation from Musk seems like a change in tune, but he has extended similar invitations before. In 2018, he said that Tesla employees could “vote union tomorrow if they wanted,” but that this would result in their needing to give up stock options and pay union dues for “nothing,” the report said.
This communication was found to violate the US labor laws and the National Labour Relations Board ordered Musk to delete it. They also ordered Tesla to offer compensation for lost wages to a union organizer, Richard Ortiz, who the company illegally fired. A federal judge noted 12 company actions that violated US labor laws.
More recently, Tesla has come under fire from California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing for alleged systemic mistreatment of factory employees, and last year was ordered to pay a $137 million judgment to an ex-worker due to a pattern of racial abuse he experienced when working there.
In each of these cases, the management was found unreceptive to concerns by the individual employees in question – whereas a union representative might have offered a second chance for those concerns to be heard.
Now, Musk suggested that the real reason unionization efforts have not gotten far is due to high levels of employee compensation by Tesla — a natural outgrowth of the hot job market in the San Francisco Bay Area. He also claimed that “Tesla factory compensation is the highest in the industry”.
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