The United Auto Workers union scored what's being called a historic victory yesterday after reaching tentative agreements with all Detroit automakers on day 46 of its unprecedented strike. Now, it's looking at what next, and that may just be Tesla, Toyota or the other non-unionized automakers in America.
While the agreements with the Detroit Three still have to be ratified, UAW President Shawn Fain is already looking to 2028 when the next round of collective bargaining negotiations is due to take place. Shawn Fain has made it clear that the UAW will not target just Detroit's Big Three in 2028, but a "Big Five" or "Big Six."
"One of our biggest goals coming out of this historic contract victory is to organize like we've never organized before," Fain said on Sunday, according to Bloomberg. "When we return to the bargaining table in 2028, it won't just be with a Big Three, but with a Big Five or Big Six."
His comments came after speculation that the UAW might target Tesla next now that it has signed tentative agreements with Ford, Stellantis and GM. While he didn't name the additional automakers that the UAW plans to target in 2028, there are several large carmakers, including Toyota Motor Corporation and Volkswagen Group, that operate major auto plants in the U.S. that employ non-union workers.
It's worth noting that both Toyota and Volkswagen are highly unionized in their home markets of Japan and Germany, respectively. Same with Hyundai Motor Group; the Korean automaker just recently reached a major deal with its union back home, too.
Gallery: Tesla Fremont Factory
There's also Tesla, the world's most valuable automaker and the global electric car leader. The EV maker employs tens of thousands of non-union workers at its factories in California, Texas, Nevada, and New York.
Earlier this month, Fain said the UAW has had "thousands of non-union autoworkers reaching out and wanting to join our movement." He specifically called Tesla, Toyota, and Honda workers "UAW members of the future." In a September interview with CBS, the UAW boss also said most of the workers in companies like Tesla "are scraping to get by so that greedy CEOs and greedy people like Elon Musk can build more rocket ships and shoot themselves in outer space."
Still, taking on Tesla will be a monumental job for the UAW given the strong opposition from CEO Elon Musk and the failed previous attempts.
UAW Organizing Committee Reportedly Set At Tesla's Fremont Plant
The union doesn't seem to be backing down, though. The UAW has reportedly set up an organizing committee at Tesla's 20,000-worker plant in Fremont, California, according to Bloomberg.
The members of this committee are talking to coworkers about the advantages of collective bargaining, according to an anonymous source familiar with the efforts. The source said the UAW has committed to providing whatever resources are necessary for the campaign.
Unionizing Tesla would be a grand prize for UAW as it would allow it not only to grow its membership but also help it stay relevant as the auto industry shifts to a battery-powered future.
That said, Mark Eberley, a former employee at the Fremont factory who worked on a UAW-backed union drive at Tesla's Fremont plant before leaving in 2020, believes the UAW isn't likely to succeed with Tesla. "The UAW would love to get into Tesla, but I don't think they have a chance," he told Bloomberg.
Musk has aggressively opposed every unionization effort at Tesla's plants, and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that the CEO and the company even employed multiple illegal tactics to stop the organizing effort at the Fremont plant. Those included Musk threatening staff via Twitter and Tesla "coercively" interrogating union supporters, and firing a worker because of his activism.
Musk hasn't changed his attitude toward organized labor, though. "A union is just another corporation," he tweeted last year.
In February, Tesla terminated dozens of workers at its plant in Buffalo, New York, the day after employees announced a unionization campaign with Workers United – another union that isn't affiliated with the UAW. Workers United claimed that the firings were in response to the organizing campaign, something that the NLRB is still investigating. Tesla has denied those charges.