UAW In Hopes of Unionizing Tesla Fremont Assembly Plant

1 year ago by Steven Loveday 87

Tesla's Fremont Assembly Facility

UAW In Hopes of Unionizing Tesla’s 5.3 Million Square Foot Fremont, CA Assembly Plant

UAW President Dennis Williams told reporters that the organization is still pursuing interest in unionizing Tesla Motors Fremont Assembly Plant. The plant in California is the only American-owned automotive assembly plant that is not part of the United Auto Workers.

UAW President Dennis Williams

UAW President Dennis Williams, Image Credit: Labor Union Report

The UAW, based out of Detroit, has been interested in unionizing Tesla for some time. The recent Tesla Model 3 reservations, coupled with the company’s announcement to ramp up production estimates by two years has “upped the ante”.

Tesla claims to be able to build 500,000 vehicles by 2018 (previously 2020). This is an extreme ramp up from 2015 figures, and will deem record-setting if achieved.

Williams was sure to clear the air about the UAW’s plan, saying that they are “not approaching this in an adversarial way.” He explained:

“We’re watching that (Tesla’s production forecasts) very closely. We just believe workers ought to have a voice in the workplace, and they ought to have collective bargaining rights.”

Since Tesla was considered a recent, small start-up, the union remained “out of the way” initially in their attempt of unionizing Tesla. If Tesla is able to to pull off projected numbers, the company will move into the 9th spot for sales of new vehicles in the U.S. No longer a “small start-up” in the eyes of any. Projections show Tesla passing Mercedes-Benz and BMW if everything falls into place as planned.

Williams is skeptical, as are many regarding whether or not Tesla can actually pull it all off. He said:

“I don’t think they’ve ever met their mark yet on production.”

He verified that he has, in fact, met with Tesla CEO Elon Musk. However, Williams wasn’t clear as to the nature of the meeting or the conversation. He didn’t comment about any “union” banter. The only anecdotes Williams shared about his time with Musk was that he found him as a “creative” and “very unique individual”. Not unlike anything others have shared before after time with the iconic “celebrity” CEO.

It will be telling to see what comes of the situation. For Tesla to pull off what is being publicized and now expected, much hard work and long hours will be the only reality. As far as we know, no one has ever reported that working for Musk is “easy” or “laid back”.

Unionizing Tesla could put a possible damper on things as they stand at the moment. Added to the past and current circumstances is now a veritable “whirlwind” of intensity. Here comes the big storm for Musk and company. We shall see how they fare, union or not.

Source: USA Today

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87 responses to "UAW In Hopes of Unionizing Tesla Fremont Assembly Plant"

  1. Nelson says:

    Union? Danger Elon Musk danger!

    NPNS! SBF!
    Volt#671

    1. SparkEV says:

      So very fitting. More robots and less people if they’re to unionize!

      1. Ocean Railroader says:

        Tesla and every other car factory is going to use as many robots as they can even if they are unionize or not. It’s what car factories do.

        1. przemo_li says:

          KIA had this *not* robotized factory in Rumunia. They where very competetive on low end, because they skipped capital costs on all those robots.

          But beyound low end You are very right.

      2. sven says:

        Toyota and Mercedes are actually moving toward using less robots and more people as cars get more options that can be custom ordered. The human can do multiple tasks, while a robot is better at doing one task. Likewise, there is less downtime when a worker calls in sick, then when a robot breaks down. The sick worker can easily be temporarily replaced by another worker, while a production line must sometimes be shut down when a robot breaks down.

        1. jelloslug says:

          Actually, when a robot breaks they replace it with another robot. No car factory can afford to be shut down by one faulty piece, human, robot, or otherwise.

          1. sven says:

            What do yo think happens when a car factory has to replace a broken robot? They shut down the assembly line. If you shut down an assembly line making a new car every 30 seconds, then every minute of downtime is very costly, as in lowering production by 2 cars for every minute of downtime. Ten minutes of downtime to replace a robot means 20 less cars, because of lost production time. A half hour of downtime means 60 less cars, because of lost production time.

            The following is a story about Toyota opening a new car factory in Ohira, Japan:

            “And indeed, Toyota’s first new Japanese plant in 18 years is a modern marvel of savings.

            “The relative lack of robots is the most striking item for someone who learned the trade back in the 80s around Volkswagen’s dimly lit and fully automated Halle 54: Sure, there is a gang of stout welding robots that weld heavy pieces together. Otherwise: Less automation than in some Chinese factories. Since the turn of the millennium, Toyota has been slowly backing away from heavy automation. The labor saved by robots was wasted by fixing and most of all by reprogramming robots. Ohira is the current culmination of this trend.”

            http://archive.fortune.com/2011/02/18/news/international/toyota-factory-japan-asia.fortune/index.htm

            1. TomArt says:

              Fascinating – thanks!

              1. sven says:

                Here is a link to the news story about how Mercedes is swapping robots for people on its assembly lines.

                https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/feb/26/mercedes-benz-robots-people-assembly-lines

                1. Nick says:

                  Also interesting that the European factories are unionized.

                  They seem to have better labor relations for some reason.

                2. SparkEV says:

                  Cynic in me thinks human labor has less to do with robot inefficiency and more to do with politics and/or unions. Even if there are 100 different options, programming them is fairly easy task compared to training many humans. And once done, they’d perform far better (ie, repeatable) than easily distracted and napping humans. Gung ho!

                  1. Jychevyvolt says:

                    A robot is good as the people that maintain them. It’s really hard to find qualified mechanic who knows electrical, hydraulics, electronics, and programming.

                    I have yet to see a mechanical engineer get down and dirty.

          2. Steven says:

            How long does it take to replace one robot with another? Most of them are really big and heavy. And don’t have legs.

        2. Terawatt says:

          Especially Toyota with their so-far-in-the-future-it-isnt-even-gonna-happen oriented vehicles.

          The Mirai really is a lot like a mechanical Swiss watch, or “movement” as they like to call it. Quartz-based watches are a thousand times simpler and keep time far better. Mirais, or hand built time movements, however are very impressive. Just look at how complicated this shit is! Nevermind the insane price and the awful performance – it is a Mirai-cle we could make it work at all!

          What does the Mirai cost again? Was it $70,000? And for that you get performance comparable to a $25,000 exhausted car, plus the ability to never ever leave California since there aren’t any stations anywhere between there and Japan. It is funny – the fool cell car is supposed to be superior to the BEV because of its wonderful range and quick replenishing of range. And yet in the real world it requires users to spend far more time refueling, at far greater cost, and can’t possibly make the sort of trips that are just mildly inconvenient to any used old $8,000 LEAF.

          I wonder how long now before fool cells fall has become super obvious to all, and even Toyota stops pretending they have any real plans with it.

          1. sven says:

            $70,000? Wow, lots of misinformation in your post.

            The Mirai costs $57,500 and it comes fully optioned. You’ll be glad to know that Congress has retroactively reinstated the $8,000 Federal tax credit for hydrogen FCVs, which would bring the price of the Mirai down to $49,500, assuming that you have enough income to take advantage of the full credit. The Mirai also comes with free fueling for three years.

            http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1101698_tax-credit-for-hydrogen-fuel-cell-vehicles-extended-by-budget-deal

            1. quartzav says:

              He is showing bias against fuel cells but not much more than your typical spreading of misinformation daily…
              Typically equipped ones sells listed MSRP are $58335~58489. So even after factored-in heavy subsidies that you are so against car manufactures have, (read–applies to only Tesla in your case) it’s still an almost $51000 plus TTL car with performance number matching $8000 used Leaf and loses to first gen. Volt.

              1. sven says:

                Are you wearing your smarty pants today, or just your witty thong?

                I don’t spread misinformation. You however are talking out of your A$$.

                Quartzav said:
                “Typically equipped ones sells listed MSRP are $58335~58489.”

                So you did an Google search for the “Mirai MSRP,” did ya. Pay attention, here’s how we get to the MSRP price range that you posted. Edmunds.com lists the base Mirai’s MSRP as $57,500, just like I said. I also said the Mirai came fully optioned. However, Edmunds.com does list three options for the Mirai: $67 alloy wheel locks, a $30 first aid kit, and a $59 Emergency Assistance Kit. Big whoop. Toyota, like all automakers, also charges a destination fee of $835.

                So lets add that up: $57,500 MSRP + $67 + $30 + $59 + $835 = $58,491 plus sales tax.

                Below is the Edmunds.com webpage listing all the options available for the Mirai and their price.
                http://www.edmunds.com/toyota/mirai/2016/options.html?legacy=true

                1. Quartzav says:

                  http://www.toyotasantamonica.com/searchnew.aspx?Model=Mirai&st=Year+desc
                  Here you go with another misinformation. I not only did s search for the Mirai but also go further and called Toyota Santa Monica for the 4 in their inventory that you can buy. Click the link and call like I did. Don’t just pull information from a second hand source. Name calling by using female clothing does not make you more masculine to cover up your deficiency in the facts.

                  1. sven says:

                    What misinformation? The Mirai in your link is $58,335, which is the $57,500 base price plus the $835 destination fee. NEWSFLASH: When automakers talk about a car’s price, they don’t include the destination fee.

                    Instead of hassling me for not including the $835 destination fee when I stated the price of the Mirai, why don’t you troll Elon Musk and give him a hard time for not including Tesla’s $1,200 destination fee in the $35,000 price he is quoting for the Model 3, which brings the cost of the Model 3 up to 36,200?

                    You can see for yourself how Tesla doesn’t include the destination fee in the MSRP starting price for any of its cars on the Tesla configuration page (click the cash tab).

                    1. quartzav says:

                      Again, you are dodging your original statement that you can spend $49500 on a Mirai. The fact is you can’t, math will still turn out to be $51000+ TTL after all tax credits if you can get them. Your misinformation on cheery picking info still is not far from Terawatt’s price comparison with Leaf and Volt.
                      My original statement with typical listed MSRP are $58335~58489 still stands. Remind me again how is my post related to model 3 again?

                    2. quartzav says:

                      Lets try not to spin this into the manufacture/dealer deceptive pricing detail. out of the door pricing does not even include documentation fee, interior protection package…etc, are we going to play that game? Willful ignorance not withstanding, I will give you the benefit of the doubt.

                    3. quartzav says:

                      Correcting misinformation that you are accusing others are giving is trolling by your standard then? Apply that standard back to your posts, you do troll here daily.

                    4. sven says:

                      quartzav said:
                      “Again, you are dodging your original statement that you can spend $49500 on a Mirai. The fact is you can’t, math will still turn out to be $51000+ TTL after all tax credits if you can get them.”

                      I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. The dealer link you posted above listed a Mirai for $58,335 (base price of $57,500 plus a $835 destination fee) plus TTL . Subtract the $8,000 federal tax credit from the $58,335 and you get $50,335 plus TTL. But let’s not forget about the whopping $5,000 California Clean Vehicle Rebate for hydrogen FCVs like the Mirai. Subtracting $5,000 from $50,335 comes out to $45,335 plus TTL.

                      Game. Set. Match. I win. 😀

                      https://cleanvehiclerebate.org/eng/eligible-vehicles

                      On a serious note, let’s stop the animosity between us and bury the hatchet. Sorry if I came off as a little snippy. I truly thought Terawatt’s $70,000 price quote was way off ($12,500 over the base price) and that he should have mentioned the $8,000 federal tax credit (and I only later remembered the $5,000 Califonia rebate).

                    5. sven says:

                      $57,500 Mirai MSRP Base Price
                      +…835 Destination Fee
                      ——-
                      $58,335 Subtotal
                      -$8,000 Federal Tax Credit
                      -$5,000 California Clean Vehicle Rebate
                      ——-
                      $45,335 Mirai Net Cost plus TTL
                      =======

                      The Mirai also includes free fueling for three years.

          2. AlphaEdge says:

            Are we drunk on FCV hate? Save it for an actual FCV article. Sheesh.

      3. David Stone says:

        Yes, robots and automation are the reasons why even poor people can afford the level of comfort reserved foe the rich before, the reason that more people have the chance for education.

        All possible through higher efficiency.

        1. Steven says:

          You’re joking, right?
          People displaced by robots don’t have much purchasing power.

          1. David Stone says:

            I think you need to look at history.

            The most obvious example is Ford.
            The more automation that was used, the more people complained while cars became less expensive, requiring less purchasing power, and the MORE people got highered.
            The introduction of computers, and later super-computers, resulted in MORE, and not less, mathematicians hired.

            Hirer efficiency always results in higher standards of living.

  2. D says:

    Get ready for the Model 3 to have a base price of $50k if that happens…

    1. Nick says:

      We know how to build an affordable car without exploiting workers.

      1. TomArt says:

        +500,000

    2. Ocean Railroader says:

      The Tesla Model Three is going to be $50,000 anyway no mater who builds it.

  3. TAP says:

    Fremont was once NUMMI-a Toyota/GM joint venture. It was unionized. When Tesla came in to buy the plant, circa 2010, they promised they would look at hiring back the NUMMI workers. They hired very few.

    1. Nick says:

      “LANGFITT: In 1982, GM had had enough and put the Fremont factory out of its misery. Two years later, GM and Toyota reopened the factory with incredibly most of the same workforce.”

      Sounds like “most” of the troubled work force was rehired.

      1. Aaron says:

        “The Auto Prophet” is a troll and an ICE-aholic. It’s clear from his website.

      1. sven says:

        There’s nothing like buying a car assembled by drunk workers purposely sabotaging the cars coming off the assembly line. Is this what Trump means when he says he wants to make America great again?

        To be fair, American union auto workers never did stop drinking and smoking pot on the job. A couple of years ago, a TV news station caught on video Detroit union autoworkers drinking and smoking pot at a public park before work and during their lunch break. This brought much shame on the autoworkers and the UAW. Did the the union workforce and the UAW learn their lesson? No. The next summer the same news station again caught on video Detroit union autoworkers smoking dope and drinking before work and on their lunch break. But this time it was not in a public park, but in the parking lot of their nearby United Auto Workers union hall. You can’t make this sh!t up.

          1. Nate says:

            What is your point? I’ve plenty of non union employees get drunk or high prior to going to the business they worked for and even during their shifts.

            1. Trollnonymous says:

              Yeah but the nonunion workers can get fired quick. The Union members, takes an act of God.

              Union bargainers will say it’s nor right to drug test UAW members……lol

              1. Nate says:

                Same thing in either case. Regardless of if there is a union the employers/hr/lawyers don’t want wrongful termination suits. So, they recommend treatment instead and/or put the pressure on the mid level managers to ‘motivate’ and improve the workers. It is hard to get rid of bad workers when you need to.

                1. TomArt says:

                  Very true.

                  1. Stimpacker says:

                    And with unions, there’s this silly thing called “seniority”. These are the old, lazy geezers that will never get laid off. Anytime the union gives something up, it will be their new members that bear the brunt of the sacrifice.

                    Unions drove the big 3 bankrupt. Be a shame to see them do it to Tesla too. In this day and age, especially in California, where even your break time is sacred, how can any employer exploit you? Unions today exploit their employers while hiding behind their large campaign contributions to politicians. Even the very method of forming a union is skewed, there is no such thing as fair elections.

                    1. Stan says:

                      Laying way too much at the feet of the unions. As a simple example of complicity elsewhere, the unions didn’t demand the Aztec.

        1. evcarstugatso says:

          That’s the reason you need a union ….to defend & keep these guys from getting FIRED!

    2. Terawatt says:

      But they looked at many, hence keeping their promise.

      I love how Americans relate to the concept of promises. Ever since I began watching movies it has fascinated me. The hero will routinely “promise everything is going to be OK”, even though he (it is almost always a he, “progressive” Hollywood notwithstanding) cannot possibly have any clue whatsoever whether this is the case, nor usually any reason to suspect he can influence whether or not things will be ok. For example, it has just become clear that the Earth is under attack by aliens from another galaxy (and therefore by someone posessing orders of magnitude more advanced technology than we do). “Everything is gonna be ok. I promise!” Or the beatiful woman has just been informed by the doctors of her terminal illness for which there is no treatment, and our hero informs her everything will be fine.

      EVs will be awesome. I promise!

      1. TomArt says:

        Actually, EVs are awesome.

        The culture, on the other hand…

  4. Ocean Railroader says:

    This is not the end of the world for Tesla considering that GM makes tons of $20,000 dollars cars with their Unionized workers.

    As long as Tesla pays good wages and has fine benefits they should have nothing to fear from the Union.

    1. sven says:

      GM has already moved a great deal of it production of low-end cars to Mexico, and is planning to move even more of its production of low-end cars to Mexico, Korea, and China. Welcome to globalization.

      1. Terawatt says:

        Every car GM has ever made is low end tho, so the qualifier is redundant.

  5. Murrysville EV says:

    Not going to happen, since Tesla’s workers aren’t downtrodden.

    This is just a UAW money grab; they saw $$ signs once Tesla announced its big production plans.

    1. Speculawyer says:

      Oh there certainly are Tesla workers that feel they are underpaid.

      1. Guy L says:

        Well, if so, they can try to find a better job elsewhere, no?

      2. Trollnonymous says:

        It’s a free country. They should go find another job then.

        I’ve been in manufacturing and the engineers do a great job simplifying a production process. You don’t need $25/hr to plug in power cable sets/harnesses that are keyed and not possible to plug into another molex connector for 8hrs.

        1. TomArt says:

          It’s not that simple.

          And, yes, if you work for a living, you should be able to support yourself on your pay, including medical and retirement benefits.

          If the job was that simple, then the employer has the option to put in robots. In either case, the job needs done, and there is a minimum wage that we need, but don’t have, in order to live in this country without the need for food stamps and Medicaid, etc., etc.

          That’s what people don’t get about minimum wage – raising the minimum wage saves taxpayers many billion$ per year since fewer people need welfare services at any given point in time.

    2. sven says:

      Is Tesla still requiring a mandatory 50-hour workweek for its factory workforce?

    3. Roy_H says:

      +1

      The only real thing that will change is that the employees will pay union dues and the union will bargain for an increase to cover that cost. This will drive up the cost of the car and only the UAW wins.

  6. sven says:

    If they unionize the Fremont plant, I hope that Tesla’s legendary build quality does not suffer. 😉

    1. Ziv says:

      LOL! I thought you were serious until I saw the emoji. But even with all the problems with build quality, you still get a great car when you buy a Tesla.
      It is kind of like having a beautiful, albeit high maintenance, girlfriend. The benefits outweigh the irritations. Most of the time.

  7. Lou says:

    Depending on how Tesla already treats and pays its workers, there may not be a noticeable difference between unionized and non-unionized. I suspect that past UAW influence has already put Tesla workers in the mindset that they are to be treated as if they were unionized. Coming in and having a vote to formally unionize won’t make things any easier for Tesla but I guarantee that Tesla has been prepared for this eventuality. It’s far from a big shock. What could/would hurt them is if they are unionized and then call a strike. That, though, would be a death knell for the workers as there is little room for slowdowns or work stoppages. The UAW knows this and is smart enough(I think)to give the company time to become established.

    1. TomArt says:

      That’s the impression that I got from the article.

    2. Omar Sultan says:

      That’s a big assumption to be making about the UAW–strategic thinking has never seemed like a strong suit.

  8. William says:

    The NUMMI Fremont Workers did an excellent job on my Toyota back in 2003! Still rolling after 200k and 13 years. Only $200.00 in replacement parts so far, not counting the obligatory lube,oil,filters,belts,tires and brakes. UAW or not, PLEASE don’t let this upcoming opposition to the UAW stymie or hinder the Model 3 volume production run. Some one has to make some concessions and, I am not thinking Elon wants to be “captured” by the UAW so to speak. Mexico, Korea, or ?

    1. evcarstugatso says:

      Only $200.00 in parts ..That is awesome! The Union is Good for the People employed by the union.. The Union Will Suck Union Dues From the worker’s Hard earned pay. There are Human Rights These days ,Unlike 80 yrs Ago when there were no Human Rights & Unions Helped people .

  9. Trollnonymous says:

    All the Union garbage appeared during the BK of GM and the other 2. Remember those?
    Job Banks?
    http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB114118143005186163

    That’s partially what caused them to need Tax payer assistance in the BK. Typical Union crap!!!

    I predict that if Tesla will go Union, jobs will go elsewhere.

  10. leafowner says:

    NOOOOOOOOOOO….

  11. Terawatt says:

    I hope the workers get unionized. Democracy is a good idea, but to be effective it needs to be an integral part of society everywhere – not just in electing policital leaders. As the US’ experience shows more clearly than anywhere else, politicians and policy can become beholden to corporations and the democratic promise to ensure power represents the people’s interest can become diluted and ineffectual.

    I see no reason to suspect Tesla treats their employees badly. It seems clear that a lot is expected of key people, but this is very clear to all and also very well compensated, so I see no reason to suspect an exploitative relationship at all.

    1. Trollnonymous says:

      Were you not around when the big 3 begged the Govt for bailout money and GM filed BK?

      The Unions sucked dry the hands that fed them.
      Like parasites leaching on to the host.

      1. TomArt says:

        You can’t blame labor for poor management decisions and lack of vision at the top.

        Also, the situation is exactly what the corporate world wanted – lower “trade barriers” by enabling domestic companies to farm out the labor and let cheap products in, leaving the middle class where it is today – screwed.

        Then, when the bill came due on the pensions, they get to renege by going belly-up, breaking the middle-class’s back and publicly blaming unions for the company’s own machinations!

      2. evcarstugatso says:

        YES , YES, & YES !

      3. AlphaEdge says:

        And they wiped out the shareholders, and the unions had no problem with it.

        Some people might think that was fair, after all BK, but they introduced new shares. I think the original shareholders should have gotten something.

    2. TomArt says:

      Exactly – in fact, I highly support what Germany does, where half (or a third, I forget which) of the board of every corporation is filled by employees. Absolute genius! Capital and Labor is an even-up exchange, not an indentured servitude like we have been fighting in the US ever since the Industrial Revolution.

      You can get a lot of good ideas from people who actually do the daily work and have to operate under management policies.

  12. Mister G says:

    First question on application should be: Do you firmly believe that CO2 and methane emissions are causing sea level rise? If answer is yes, hired..if answer is no or I don’t know…we will call you bye-bye. The purpose of this question is to eliminate the drunks and lazy workers that do not want to save humanity from fossil fuel addiction.

    1. William says:

      “Climate change deniers need not apply”, on the job posting, would save human resources from adding additional circular file capacity.

    2. Nate says:

      Just because I can honestly answer yes does not mean I don’t like to drink and/or be a lazy worker. Or, vice versa. It can be hard to find good workers. This question would not help you hire more productive workers, and could do more harm than good.

      1. Mister G says:

        I agree, I believe in man made global warming and I drink and am lazy on weekends, but if my job involves making zero emission vehicles that will save the planet from fossil fuel addiction…the mission will motivate me to make quality vehicles and sacrifice comfort, money if asked to sacrifice by company. A global warming denier would on the other hand laugh his arse off and do everything possible to work less and complain more because the mission is get a paycheck not save humanity.

    3. TomArt says:

      The two are not related…no matter where you go or what you do, you are dealing with human beings…public, private, non-profit, management, union, legislature, university, whatever…you will have people with different priorities/additions/issues to deal with. There is no escape.

      1. TomArt says:

        *addictions

        Also, there is no ethical solution nor cure for human nature. We just have to look in the mirror, and move on…

  13. scott franco (No M3 FAUX GRILL!) says:

    Misleading. There are other non-UAW plants in the USA.

    1. Nick says:

      Apparently none of the others are American owned. (based on the statement in the article)

      1. Scott Franco says:

        So what?

  14. MDEV says:

    Tesla will move to China if this happens and I will support it.

  15. Four Electrics says:

    If companies are prohibited from colluding to fix prices, I don’t see why unions should be allowed to attempt to gain a monopoly on a company’s supply of labor. Both are market distorting practices. Unions will only reduce Tesla’s competitiveness by choking the margin out of their operations.

  16. Scott Franco says:

    Unions are like the genetically engineered mosquitos they are releasing to stop the Zika virus.

    They are a last resort, sometimes necessary, and their goal is to screw everyone.

    1. Scott Franco says:

      Better:

      The are a last resort, they live by sucking blood, they are sometimes necessary, and their goal is to screw everyone.

      Damm lack of edit button….

      1. TomArt says:

        The lack of an edit button is the least of your problems…

  17. Jeff D says:

    I don’t see this as a huge issue one way or another. The Union may want to get involved at Tesla, but that does not guarantee that the employees will be interested. It’s not as if Tesla is lowballing their employees anyway, so even if Tesla became unionized it wouldn’t affect the price of the product much.