Labor Organizations Up Pressure To Unionize Tesla




Tesla Motors factory in Fremont, CA.

Now that Tesla’s stock has hit record highs, and Model 3 production is set to begin in July, labor organizations are joining forces and upping the pressure to unionize the electric automaker.

Workers at Tesla’s Fremont factory have come forward, complaining about the unsafe work environment, monumental production expectations, low wages, and unfair confidentiality policies. This past week, 60 local organizations drafted a letter to CEO Elon Musk pointing out the supposed issues.

The coalition working to push Tesla toward unionization includes local chapters of the UAW, the labor councils of the South Bay AFL-CIO, San Francisco, and Alameda, along with many other environmental and worker advocacy groups. Derecka Mehrens, co-founder of a workers advocacy group named Silicon Valley Rising, explained:


Model 3

“The workers feel they do not have a mechanism to discuss problems. A union, fundamentally, provides workers a voice.”

Tesla has yet to comment on the acceleration of the situation. However, CEO Elon Musk, and other company spokespeople responded to concerns about its confidentiality agreement back in January. The given explanation was that it is only an attempt to protect trade secrets, and safeguard private information about upcoming product details.

Mehrens, along with many others that collectively drafted the letter, believe that Tesla’s confidentiality policy must be relaxed, so that employees feel more free to talk about their work, and concerns at the Fremont factory. The letter reads:

“While we respect the need for Tesla to protect critical information about its products and technology, this agreement fails to acknowledge the protected rights of workers to communicate to each other and to the public about their working conditions, wages, or other critical worker justice issues.”

Musk has also attempted to reach out to employees via an email, which was eventually leaked. He provided proof that Tesla’s wages and benefit compensation – which factors in stock options – are better than that of competitors. Musk also emphasized Tesla’s commitment to safety and fairness, citing statistics showing that the Silicon Valley electric automaker has a very low number of incidents and complaints.

The labor groups are still concerned that Tesla is not focusing on the employees’ well being, especially during this busy time. The automaker has a full plate at the moment and with Model 3 production looming, it isn’t going to get an easier anytime soon.

A Fremont factory production worker, Michael Catura, told The Mercury News that he supports Tesla and believes in the automaker’s goals. Although he is concerned that workers don’t have much say, and safety measures are not standardized. He is worried that the pressure in the coming months may be too much to handle. Catura admitted:

“I don’t know how much faster and harder they want us to work.”

Source: The Mercury News

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31 Comments on "Labor Organizations Up Pressure To Unionize Tesla"

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I’ll give it a year until Tesla starts looking into moving their factory out of Fremont and California.

This really sounds like the unions want to collect their union dues, and only a few workers want this.

You are a idiot!! Workers have no power until ther come together to bargain collectively!

And Teslas next big achievment will be the first 100% robotized factory…

That will take some of the pressure off the “work harder, work faster” problem.

Sounds like the union sees an opportunity to steal more money and we know they cant pass that up.

“A union, fundamentally, provides workers a voice”

I found a big typo. This sentence should read:

“A union, fundamentally, provides workers a way to give away their money without providing any substantial benefit”

Unions have outlived their usefulness. This is just a money grab by dinosaurs struggling to find relevance.

It depends on point of view, workers want unions while owners not so much.

Germany has strong unions, they produce fine cars. They consider labor a partner not an object.


Did you not read?
“Musk … provided proof that Tesla’s wages and benefit compensation – which factors in stock options – are better than that of competitors. Musk also emphasized Tesla’s commitment to safety and fairness, citing statistics showing that the Silicon Valley electric automaker has a very low number of incidents and complaints.”

“Tesla’s wages. . . better than that of competitors”

I’d be curious to know just who those SF Bay Area automotive industry competitors are.

One thing I do know (as a former 40+ year Bay Area resident) is that the basic cost of living there is extraordinarily high, especially for the blue collar professions.

I’m personally inclined to respect those Stakhanovite workers at Tesla and think they should be listened to. They might actually deserve a better share in the cash flow.

Non union pays well because of unions.

You cannot pay a mortgage bill, a medical deductible, or a car payment with stock options that won’t vest for years.

Unions completely go against the principles of free market. In this world, you are either an employer or an employee. An employer sets the rates and benefits. If the employee doesn’t like that, they can negotiate with the employer or seek a position somewhere else.

If the employer is unethical and doesn’t want to compensate his employees properly, they can quit. If enough employees leave, the employer will change his tone towards his employees and be forced to offer competitive compensation or he risks his business sinking with a low to zero labor force behind it. This the answer to the people out there who like to bring up the “collective bargaining” feature of unions. The market will decide as always.

This is the only natural way in this world, unions are unnatural. Having a middle man in the employer/employee relationship is disturbing.

“An employer sets the rates and benefits. If the employee doesn’t like that, they can negotiate with the employer or seek a position somewhere else.”

Since they are already getting higher than normal wages the last option is not likely. 🙂

EVA…do you really believe that the US economy is a free market? If you do I got some FL swampland to sell you. A real free market would be on Mars or the moon, no laws no rules no government no regulations no security no infrastructure no electrification no tele-communications…you would not survive one day in a real free market world lol

The problem with your scenario is that you’re assuming that the company will budge even when faced with the impossibility of every employee quitting.

This is what unions are/were for. A workforce that acts as one. So that you and I don’t have to hold a secret meeting and organize a mass quitting just so that the next employee will get a better wage/benefit with no guarantee that you’ll get your job back after you’ve quit.

There is no stopping a company from hiring new employees when everyone quits… especially unskilled jobs like putting stuff together on an assembly line.

Sure, unions may have outlived their usefulness but history repeats itself, and one day, we will need unions again.

Keep drinking that Kool-Aid.

A company is one expression of the ideal of freedom to associate while a union is another equally valid expression of that same right.

Dominance by the first leads to corporate fascism while dominance of the latter leads to communism (and not the fake sort the old Soviet Union had.)

It’s no wonder so many workers are throwing away their rights, because the corporate leaders and corporate media have successfully sold communism as the greater evil when in fact the opposite is true.

A balanced system of both in perpetual but considerate and polite opposition and rivalry is the one true path to prosperity.

The right to bargain collectively was established 80 years ago. Corporate managers like playing God.

Exactly. It’s ridiculous to promote the “free market” at the same time you are bashing workers for choosing to band together and represent their collective productivity with one voice.

You have the ability to choose your master or starve under a bridge.

Funny form of Freedom.

I wonder if this is a concerned effort by GM and Ford to sic the unions on Tesla, or if there are workers at Tesla that are Trump supporters and climate change deniers trying to sabotage the advances that Tesla has made.

Best comment I’ve read on InsideEV so far.

I also wonder if some of them are not fool cell fanboyz that try to undermine the future of EV.

If it was irony it’s truly brilliant.

It would be the end of Tesla.

Agree unions and 21st century is a clash, the end of Tesla as an efficient company.

So basically, you’re saying that Tesla can’t possibly continue to exist if they have to come to the negotiating table with autoworker unions… like every other automaker does?

They served their purpose a century ago keeping 12 year olds out of factories. Having said that I’ll add that my hometown is Pittsburgh, Pa. and we watched unions DESTROY an entire industry with their greed.

So the unions created the international trade policies and globalized markets that simply didn’t exist when “old” Pittsburgh was being built? Wrong answer.

You’ve misdiagnosed the real cause. The workers were trying to hold onto a standard of living that was impossible to hold once the forces of an unfettered international market were released. The managers were trying to keep their standard of living that looked impossible to keep if they DIDN’T cut the workers’ standard of living. The real fact is that the changes in political policies and world situations made it impossible for either to succeed.

There was no solution at that level. Political powers changed the game too much. Ultimately those changes are beneficial to the world economy but that doesn’t stop them from being extremely painful for some individual communities.

But you’ve laid blame at the feet of one of the two victims and are calling for an execution. An epically foolish conclusion and response.

A simple mind assigns the blame instead of finding the cause.

(My roots are also in Pittsburgh. Well, Beaver County, actually; but yes, union steelworkers, and I’m proud of it.)

To those that think unions have passed their usefulness, you need to think about policies that have been passed in last couple of decades and the current economic situation. Some of the stories I’ve read about are: At-will employment. There are still certain number of states that allow an employer to terminate an employee without cause. Arbitration – when hired, an employee is required to sign a document that basically waives their right to pursue any labor conflicts through the normal channels of which you and I are accustomed to. Instead, conflicts are run through an arbitrator, who is obviously hired by the employer and works for the employer’s interests. Other contract clauses that prevent the free movement of employees and employee choice. For example, Google may have an agreement with Apple to not poach each other’s employees. Or employees agree not to discuss anything about their former employer for a period of a certain time or face legal action. The current economic situation is this. While corporations are making billions in profits, they continue to shaft it’s employees by transitioning them part-time positions. Part-time workers, as you know, do not enjoy the same pay and benefits as full time… Read more »

Really this is just another way for the UAW to say alive paying its top people that do nothing for a living get a pay check off the backs of hard working people. Unions are old school business money schemes that only worked to support workers in the 30s 40s and 50s after that it was about making money. Tesla pays very well for what the workers do, it’s been posted many times. UAW go leach cash elseway and leave Tesla alone so they can focus on building the cars of the future. This coming from a Telsa car owner and stock holder.