A Unionized Tesla? UAW Considering a Push for Musk's Workers

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
a unionized tesla uaw considering a push for musk s workers

The folks at United Auto Workers are eyeing Tesla’s production targets and making plans.

The electric automaker wants to manufacture 500,000 vehicles per year in 2018, and the union wants the workers behind those EVs in its fold, according to USA Today (via Left Lane News).

Though it hasn’t announced anything officially, UAW boss Dennis Williams recently expressed interest in unionizing Elon Musk’s California assembly plant employees.

“We’re watching that very closely,” UAW President Dennis Williams told USA Today, referring to the electric automaker’s lofty plans. “We just believe workers ought to have a voice in the workplace, and they ought to have collective bargaining rights.”

If production does hit half a million, that places Tesla in ninth place among automakers operating in the United States, ahead of Mercedes-Benz and BMW. The union already represents the big American automakers, but Tesla (and Musk) has so far avoided talking about the possibility.

Williams said he’s met with Musk before, but didn’t say when that occurred or whether they discussed unionization. He did call Musk a “very unique individual,” and said UAW isn’t approaching Tesla “in an adversarial way.”

Musk has bigger things on his mind than worrying about future collective bargaining battles and the potential for strikes. Tesla is ramping up to produce the $35,000 Model 3 sedan by late 2017 — a feat many say is unrealistic, given the logistics. Some 373,000 reservations are on the books for that model, with the Model S and Model X adding to the production tsunami.

The company plans to raise and spend about $2 billion this year to make sure enough capacity exists at its Fremont plant and its battery-producing Gigafactory.

According to one salary tracking site, employees at Tesla’s Fremont, California facility average $91,000 in gross income.

The company recently came under fire after a media investigation revealed that foreign workers hired by a subcontractor were paid $5 an hour and forced to work long hours in an unsafe manner.

Tesla said it would do right by all workers in the future, while Musk tweeted that the workers (mostly of Slovenian and Bosnian origin) were paid a full $55 an hour, putting the heat back onto the subcontractor.

[Image: Tesla Motors]

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  • Mcs Mcs on May 23, 2016

    Looks like Tesla might have a bit of an insurance policy at some point: http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2016-05/20/content_25386843.htm

  • Shaker Shaker on May 23, 2016

    If Musk is treating his workers well enough, then he has no reason to fear that his workers would choose the UAW... Without unions, companies would face less pressure to provide a decent wage/benefit package... Catch 22 anyone?

    • See 7 previous
    • Xeranar Xeranar on May 24, 2016

      @Xeranar All of the grading this semester slowed me down so I went into seclusion for a time. I'm going back up to PA for a few weeks soon, that'll be a great time to recharge.

  • Dusterdude The suppliers can ask for concessions, but I wouldn’t hold my breath . With the UAW they are ultimately bound to negotiate with them. However, with suppliers , they could always find another supplier ( which in some cases would be difficult, but not impossible)
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