Home / Tesla / As Tesla Plant Shows Early Signs of Unionizing, Musk and UAW Trade Blows

As Tesla Plant Shows Early Signs of Unionizing, Musk and UAW Trade Blows

tesla factory fremont

Some employees at Tesla Inc.’s Fremont, California factory have been moving ahead with efforts to unionize. Fronting that campaign is Jose Moran, who claims to have worked at the plant for the last four years. He and other disgruntled Tesla employees have reached out to the United Automobile Workers, claiming they work long hours for low pay under unsafe conditions as the company pursues aggressive production deadlines.

While Tesla’s CEO has responded with his own claim that Moran was paid by the UAW to join his company and proselytize for a union, the organization promptly refuted that suggestion by accusing Tesla of spreading dreaded “fake news.” 

The UAW previously expressed an interest in unionizing Musk’s California assembly plant employees after an investigation revealed that Tesla hired foreign workers through a subcontractor. Those workers were reportedly paid $5 an hour and forced to work long hours in an unsafe manner.

In a recent blog posting, Moran echoed those safety concerns.

“Preventable injuries happen often. In addition to long working hours, machinery is often not ergonomically compatible with our bodies,” he wrote. “There is too much twisting and turning and extra physical movement to do jobs that could be simplified if workers’ input were welcomed. Add a shortage of manpower and a constant push to work faster to meet production goals, and injuries are bound to happen.”

He also wrote Fremont plant employees typically earn between $17 and $21 an hour, before citing the current national average of $25.58 per hour. The U.S. Department of Labor actually lists a higher average.

Tesla’s California factory is the sole U.S. plant owned by an American automaker that is not unionized, and the UAW hasn’t kept secret its desire to change that. The union’s secretary-treasurer, Gary Casteel, told Automotive News in June that members had been speaking with workers at the plant. However, UAW also claimed it had planned to wait until Tesla had moved beyond startup status to begin organizing.

“This is not the first time we have been the target of a professional union organizing effort such as this,� a Tesla spokesman said in an official statement.

The automaker’s CEO was much more candid — criticizing Moran’s accusations as well as the union.

“Frankly, I find this attack to be morally outrageous. Tesla is the last car company left in California, because costs are so high,” Musk told Gizmodo. “The UAW killed [Toyota-GM joint venture NUMMI] and abandoned the workers at our Fremont plant in 2010. They have no leg to stand on.”

[Image: Tesla Motors]

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