By on January 11, 2019

Shortly after General Motors announced its decision to end assembly work at two car-producing U.S. plants, Tesla CEO Elon Musk floated the possibility of a Silicon Valley rescue of either Detroit-Hamtramck or Lordstown Assembly.

Talks between GM and Tesla did occur, it turns out, but GM CEO Mary Barra doesn’t seem to think much of the chances of laid-off employees finding salvation in a Tesla intervention.

Speaking at an investor’s conference Friday, Barra said there had been a dialogue between the two automakers over use of GM’s soon-to-be-mothballed plants. However, the strong presence of the United Auto Workers in the Rust Belt — a union Musk openly despises — apparently brought the convos to a halt.

“There have been conversations in the past,” Barra said, according to USA Today. “But Tesla’s not interested in our workforce represented by the UAW, so really it’s a moot point.”

Musk doesn’t mince words when talking about the UAW. The Tesla co-founder blames the union for GM’s historic downfall and recession-era bankruptcy; meanwhile, Tesla workers in favor of unionization of Fremont’s workforce claim the CEO will do anything to keep UAW’s hands off his plant. Musk counters with the argument that, with proper pay and working conditions, no worker should desire union membership.

In a 60 Minutes interview in early December, Musk said of GM’s plants, “It’s possible that we would be interested. If they were going to sell a plant or not use it that we would take it over.”

Earlier, GM, as part of a sweeping streamlining effort, announced the discontinuation of six car models (Chevrolet Impala, Cruze, and Volt, Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac XTS and CT6) and the closure of the three plants building them. The plants go dark by the end of 2019. According to  Canadian autoworkers union Unifor, the automaker has no plans for returning product to Ontario’s Oshawa Assembly. As for Detroit-Hamtramck and Lordstown, GM hasn’t had much to say about the plants’ future.

Whatever that future is, Tesla likely won’t be a part of it.

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31 Comments on “Elon as Rescuer? Not for GM Workers, Barra Says...”


  • avatar
    TDIandThen....

    I wonder about the Oshawa facilities in particular, as there’s a very US-positive exchange rate at the moment plus a couple of additional free trade agreements not threatened by Das Brezident in DC. Union labour may be more affordable as well, not sure.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    So the union couldn’t protect the workers’ jobs in the past, present, or future. Hope all those years of dues were worth it – not to mention the corporate welfare provided by the host cities.

  • avatar
    phxmotor

    Elon wants to fend off UAW incursions? Ok …
    …great idea… Let’s see how this is being accomplished…
    …Tesla’s $17/hr and 12 hour shifts
    should do the trick. Add that to the fact that at
    the new gigafactory in Nevada no overtime is paid
    after 8hrs. Only after 40/week. Well then… that ought
    to fend of unionization.
    … yeah right…

  • avatar
    Asdf

    It’s pretty evident that GM will shut down its US manufacturing presence within the next few years. Today, US GM workers have the privilege of assembling crappy Chinese-made parts into “Made in the US” vehicles, in the future the vehicles themselves will come fully assembled to US shores from China, with not even a single molecule of quality in them as a result.

    Where does Tesla fit into this picture? Those who are not in denial realize that Tesla will go bankrupt this year or next year, after which the Chinese will purchase whatever remains are worth keeping, which may include Tesla’s new Shanghai plant. American Tesla workers will be laid off, of course, and any future Tesla-branded vehicles, like future GM vehicles, will be manufactured in China, they too without a single molecule of quality in them as a result. This China-based Tesla will obviously have as little need for American autoworkers as GM.

  • avatar

    she couldn’t be worse than Wagoner but it’s not for lack of effort.

  • avatar
    TwoBelugas

    I don’t see a rush of Japanese, Korean and German companies rushing to the areas where GM plants are being shut down to take advantage of the existing supply chain and highly skilled UAW represented labor, that should tell us something.

  • avatar
    redapple

    “The Tesla co-founder blames the union for GM’s historic downfall and recession-era bankruptcy”

    Musk is correct. I was a skilled trades supervisor at a GM Powertrain plant. The hourly worked harder at screwing off than doing their jobs. No effort, no dedication, just coasting at $60 / hour (in today’s dollars fully loaded)

    Magic words, ‘ i want my committee man.’

    • 0 avatar
      thejohnnycanuck

      Thanks for the reality check. Every time there’s something to do with the UAW it inevitably boils down to leaders bad, workers good, end of story.

      I wonder how many of them can even spell entitlement.

      • 0 avatar
        cimarron typeR

        redapple-thanks for the insight, from the ground level. Industry folk chiming in is one of the reasons I frequent the comments.
        An idea for TTAC authors, how about a series of interviews with USDM plant former employees or management for a no spin inside look into the processes/ideologies especially as compared to foreign manufac. who operate in US also.

  • avatar
    V16

    The Tesla co-founder blames the union for GM’s historic downfall and recession-era bankruptcy.
    Last time I checked, union workers assemble what management designed, financed, and approved for production.
    GM and competent management is the definition of an oxymoron. Tesla seems to be following its footsteps.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Check again, and you’ll find their hands aournd GM’s, Ford’s and Chrysler’s throat, leading right up to the global financial meltdown.

      It isnt about production or the product itself, it’s what they have to go through to put the product on the street that nearly killed them (and may still yet).

      If every time you were at your favorite store, someone mugged you and beat you senseless, how long before you would say “loyalty be damned” and pick a different store to shop at? One that’s cheaper to boot?

  • avatar
    manu06

    God forbid that the employees be able to afford the vehicles they were assembling.
    I imagine those employees bought houses, cars, and supported merchants.
    Their paychecks circulated throughout the local economy and benefitted the community
    as a whole. Now those jobs are going away and the tax base will shrink while the
    safety net will be strained. But guess what ? The car companies will still price the imported
    vehicles to maximize revenue and the executives will walk away with millions.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Do you think Rolls-Royce assemblers can afford the cars they build, or Boeing workers can afford a passenger plane? In my 30+ years working as an engineer, I’ve never been able to afford the products I work on.

      Since when does a mfr provide a guaranteed job to the local citizens and their descendants for perpetuity?

      As for ‘maximizing revenue’… that’s what a business is supposed to do – within the bounds of the law. That is important, but maximizing profit is really the goal. They’re not running a charity or a jobs program.

      The fact is that the cost of doing business became too high to justify running these plants anymore, and the products GM had for them are not selling due to a variety of reasons (many within GM’s control). As for the tax base, the host cities foolishly whored themselves out to the mfrs when they offered tax breaks for decades at a time, just to keep those jobs around a little longer. So the tax base has already been diminished, and the house of cards is collapsing.

      Maybe – just maybe – if the workers were making competitive non-union wages (like at the transplants), they’d still have jobs. But even still, there is no assurance of this due to other factors at play.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      You’re SO RIGHT! They should just lose millions instead, take their whipping like a good evil corporation, and when they go under and NOBODY is employed, their former workers will take solace in the fact that at least they could afford two Denalis…for a while, only the repo truck is looking for them now. That solves everything.

      Then, we can say how it was their awful Chevy Citations and too many Monte Carlos that did them in, while the transplants (free from the union’s chokehold, able to fire bad workers as needed) just built a better toaster and that’s why they win. Then we can drive home in our Corollas and wonder why American companies went down in flames.

    • 0 avatar

      Sounds like the foundation of Volkswagen.

  • avatar
    vehic1

    Another poor, sweet little billionaire, grousing about the unions.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    GM needs to sell off Buick and Cadillac to China. The only interest in these brands is in China. Take the funds and improve Chevrolet, but before you do that pay off Mary Barra and the board. In other words pay to get rid of them and get a CEO that is not only savvy with finances but has an interest in cars and trucks and knows something about them. There is still too much of the old GM left.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    how did it work out at the NUMMI plant? im guessing not a lot of GM/Toyota lifers got hired on.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @JohnTaurus–The problems with GM are far deeper than the UAW. It is easy to blame unions and much harder to look within. GM needs a clean sweep of their management. Cadillac and Buick have lost their way and most Americans don’t even consider buying their products. Don’t waste anymore resources on these brands sell them off even if it is to the Chinese before GM bleeds anymore funds. Cut your losses and move on. Mary Barra and the board needs to go and if it takes giving them a golden parachute then so be it. There is still the old GM in the new GM. Too easy to blame unions it deflects attention away from the real problems with GM. GM wants to make vehicles in China then let them do that but don’t ever give them another dime of taxpayer money and sell GM off to the Chinese.

  • avatar
    SuperCarEnthusiast

    To bad GM still went ahead with building the new Mexico assembly plant for the Chevrolet Blazer.

  • avatar

    Tesla is around to make us feel better about the US auto industry. I guess Tesla proves there are American cars people really want. In the last decade GM and Ford have brought nothing but shame to America.

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