Tesla Factory Workers Looking To Unionize Send List Of Demands To Tesla’s Board

3 months ago by Steven Loveday 60

Tesla

Aerial View Of Tesla Fremont Factory

Just three days after the Model 3 handover event, a group of employees with hopes to unionize sends a letter with a list of demands to the automaker’s board.

Ever since Fremont factory worker, Jose Moran, published a piece in Medium back in January, and female engineer, AJ Vandermeyden, pointed out potential harassment, the UAW has pushed harder in its attempt to unionize the Tesla factory.

The reports seemed to go away temporarily as CEO Elon Musk personally spoke to the reported issues, and sent an email to workers. He called the allegations false, and went so far as to ask employees to report any injury issues directly to him.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk

Tesla CEO Elon Musk

A group called the Tesla Workers’ Organizing Committee is actively seeking unionization, and has now sent a letter to the automaker’s board. The group believes that the issues have not yet been resolved, and is seeking further efforts by the Silicon Valley automaker. The letter states (via Business Insider):

“Remember that we are invested as shareholders in the company’s future too. Perhaps more importantly, if we have a voice we can identify problems and solutions in the Model 3 production process and help us all succeed at this critical stage in our company’s history.”

“We have raised these issues repeatedly, but they remain unresolved. Your guidance navigating them would be invaluable as we work to become the most profitable and productive auto company in the US.”

The letter points to an earlier report by Worksafe, which insists that injury rates at the factory in Fremont were above the industry average in 2014 and 2015. Musk has said all along that Tesla’s injury rates are well below the industry average, and it is now 2017. According to Tesla, significant changes have taken place over the past few years to assure that there are minimal issues, however, 2016 data is not yet available.

During the recent Model 3 event, Musk made some comments regarding the upcoming Model 3 “production hell”.  It is certainly no secret that the timeline and constraints that Tesla is up against in the foreseeable future is monumental. However, Tesla assures that it’s doing everything it can to make it reasonable and workable.

While the letter is not a direct request to push Tesla to unionize, it asks the automaker to function more like a unionized automaker. The recent letter asks for clarity regarding policy and promotion. It states that there are really no specific guidelines in place. It also asks Tesla to steer clear of making “anti-union” statements.

If Tesla moves forward with the group’s demands, will the committee consider this enough? Are the demands a substitute for unionization? Is the Tesla Workers’ Organizing Committee planning to push for unionization regardless?

These are all good questions, and at this point we really aren’t sure where this is headed, and Tesla has yet to reply to a request for comment from Business Insider.

Time can only tell if the company will attempt to comply with the recent requests. If Tesla takes steps to pacify the group, make details more clear, and makes these employees feel attended to, perhaps requests for unionization will go away. However, if the company avoids the recent demands, the push for unionization has the potential to escalate.

Source: Business Insider

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60 responses to "Tesla Factory Workers Looking To Unionize Send List Of Demands To Tesla’s Board"

  1. CCIE says:

    Presumably the unionization is being supported/advanced by traditional car manufacturers. If they have to work under the weight of unions, they want Tesla to also have that handicap. And I’m sure they hope it’ll severely hurt Tesla.

    Unions had their place 75-100 years ago when there were few workplace protections/regulations. But today they serve to ensure people who can’t advance based on merit are able to keep their jobs.

    There is a middle-ground where unions can be symbiotic with employers, but unions haven’t operated that way in 50 years.

    1. Nix says:

      Yes, the vast majority of issues that workers had to strike for have now been codified into State and Federal laws and regulations.

      There is still a role for Unions in the US and in the world to work with companies, but many of the current unions aren’t interested in that role inside the United States, and they are doing a poor job of fulfilling that role. Especially the UAW, who still believes in the ancient pension system which desperately needs to be updated to more of a self-directed 401k type of retirement system.

      1. CVVH says:

        Sure. Push the risk onto employees that generally have zero financial IQ for investment, instead of a dedicated pension manager that lives that stuff.

        1. JeffD says:

          A 401k being self-directed doesn’t mean they have to do everything by themselves. It means they control how much they want to contribute. They can often choose what mutual funds they want their money to be invested in, and a 401k is more portable if a person were to either loose their job or choose to change jobs.

        2. CCIE says:

          It’s not that hard to push 401k money into a Vanguard target date fund. Low fees, low risk, and it’s managed on the back end.

          Pensions were a foolish idea.

          1. Steven says:

            A foolish idea?

            Only to those who has to fund them.
            The people who benefited from them generally appreciate them.

            Getting away from pensions simply means that the employer isn’t bothered by how the fund performs, “Don’t blame us, you picked the wrong fund for your 401(k).” Just another way to shift responsibility. Some may say that’s good, others will disagree.

            1. CCIE says:

              Pensions worked when people only lived to be 70. People live too long now for a pension to keep paying them, and their spouse, into their late 80s. That’s 25 years of payments, or more if they retire early. It just doesn’t work.

              401k and other retirement vehicles give people options and also make them responsible for their own future. If they don’t save early then they have to work longer. That’s fair.

              1. Dan says:

                It’s the other way around. Pensions worked when people worked at the same company for their entire lives. They don’t work well in a modern economy where there is mobility. When you need to take your retirement with you from employer to employer, pensions are a pain.

                The issues around age are the same whether you’re socking away into a pension or into a 401k. If people outilve their earnings, someone or the other will end up suffering and just because the suffering is hidden behind a pension, it doesn’t mean that pension will survive any better than a 401k.

        3. Nix says:

          Pensions actually have a fairly high failure rate. In fact, the failure rate is so high that the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (that is backed by the gov’t but funded through pension fees) is running out of cash:

          http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-03-03/pension-benefit-guarantee-corporation-running-out-cash-millions-affected

          401k’s are typically protected at two levels.

          1) Your employer has (or hires) a professional money manager to choose what funds are available in the 401k. They have a fiduciary duty to you to choose only funds that will meet the goal of long term investment grade investments.

          2) The selections are typically managed or indexed funds that are also run by professional money managers.

          Yes, you can shoot yourself in your own foot with a 401k. But I prefer that to having my foot shot off by somebody else because a pension fund was raided and left to fail.

        4. Cid says:

          You mean like Enron and Worldcom pension managers?

    2. Mo says:

      Unions+California equals future death of yet another company. Believe me I’m a physician in NYC and work with union vs private workers and my goodness, the laziness of many union workers cannot be matched.

      1. CCIE says:

        It always makes me laugh when I’m in a NYC building that has a Union Elevator Operator.

        Apparently when elevators became easy to operate the Unions still demanded the elevator operator job be retained. So now some buildings have someone to push the elevator button for you. They usually even have a little stool to sit on in the elevator so they’re able to rest between button pushes. Now that is Unions at their finest!

        1. L'amata says:

          The squeaky wheel always gets the grease..Unions & union employees are parasites that attack the vunerable. When the Company needs these Parasites the Most, they turn on them, instead of giving them a chance to get off the ground ,they try and slap the company down without realizing they’ll hurt themselves in the end by doing so. They take full advantage of all situations & weaknesses…UNIONS ARE a Company’s ENEMY ….Only good for the Lazy workers that injure themselves to avoid work …They Work at Not Working & always get Bailed out by the “UNION”..This gives Unions Purpose to justify their existence.. …..FACT!!!

      2. FISHEV says:

        America has done best when unions have done best. In Europe which has arguably done better job of maintaining an industrial base than has the US, unionization if high.

        BMW in the US actually encouraged its workers in Southern US plants to unionize. Smart and fair management is for it. Musk takes it personally which is a bit childish and unfair to the workers.

        Musk considers himself fair and that nothing his management team would do would be unfair but with unlimited power, it happens inevitably. Could see it especially now at Tesla where managers are under pressure to produce likely pushing workers on overtime or even cutting corners “for the team”, a situation where someone doing their job perfectly well can be fired for not “doing his part”.

        1. CCIE says:

          Keeping manufacturing has more to do with who the people of a country choose to buy from. The Japanese, and to a lesser extent some European countries, do a good job of buying domestic. In the US we tend to buy whatever is cheapest.

          Unions only make products more expensive by forcing companies to overpay for unskilled laborers. So, if anything, unions in the US hastened the outsourcing of most manufacturing.

    3. Joe says:

      Unions are extremely valuable if they are really integrated into the company pursuing the same goal as the management: make the company successful while making sure the employees benefit from the company’s prosperity in a fair share.

      It is a complete illusion to think management does not need counter power.

      I’m not affiliated with any unions but in my professional experience show me that weak unions are not good for employees and even the company in the long run.

      1. CCIE says:

        If their were symbiotic and reasonable unions in the US they might be beneficial. But unions like that don’t exist here.

    4. Turbofroggy says:

      +1
      Totally agree 100%.

  2. (⌐■_■) Trollnonymous says:

    Unionization will be the slow cancer that eats away at Tesla and it’s profits.

    The same Cancer that plagued GM into BK due to many stupid Union demands like “Job Banks”…
    http://www.autonews.com/article/20140127/OEM/301279990/the-end-of-the-jobs-bank-a-symbol-of-excess

    1. fotomoto says:

      Umm….. from the above link.

      “The Jobs Bank actually was an idea proposed by GM to the UAW during contract talks. GM officials believed it would never even be necessary because the company expected to fully use its production capacity, former executive Bob Lutz wrote in his book Car Guys vs. Bean Counters.”

    2. Joe says:

      Why would unions be necessarily stupid.
      It works quite well in Germany. Car companies in Germany don’t seem to suffer much from powerful unions

        1. fotomoto says:

          Nearly 5 months ago. What happened?

  3. Nix says:

    The goal of the committee is to unionize no matter what. The list of demands is an attempt to sow discontent among workers whether Tesla has already worked to fix issues or not, and whether Tesla agrees to fix issues or not.

    It is not actually a good-faith effort to enact change to avoid unionization.

  4. Mark C says:

    I don’t know that unionizing a factory in this country would be of much long-term benefit. Worse still in CA.

    The traditional American manufacturers make a vast number of their cars outside of the US borders now. Teslas factory is, after all a General Motors / Toyota factory where those two threw in the towel. I would suspect they decided to go away instead of continue to pay Union Wages & benefits in one of the most expensive places in the US to operate a factory.

  5. SparkEV says:

    “upcoming Model 3 “production hell”.”

    Talk about holding the company hostage! It’s like saying “if you don’t “meet our demands”, we will beat up anyone who dare to work at your company and burn your company to the ground.”

    When gangs do this, they are prosecuted, but not the union thugs. Extortion gangs should call themselves “union organizers” to avoid prosecution.

  6. CDAVIS says:

    The more Tesla grows and takes market share from traditional car makers the more Tesla becomes an UAW target…it wil get dirty.

    Thing to keep in mind is that as a result of the Obama Automotive Bailout, the UAW has a much larger vested equity and profit-share interest in the traditional car makers.

    1. Kdawg says:

      It was actually Bush that signed the $17 billion TARP loans to prevent bankruptcy.

      1. CDAVIS says:

        Bush Admin initially provided the short-term bridge loans (17.6 billion in TARP money in December 2008 to keep General Motors and Chrysler afloat) alive…but that was only to buy time for the Obama Admin to negotiate/draw-up the larger bailout package including the UAW deal.

  7. Alaa says:

    Maybe they should write to Donald Trump and let him in the loop too. It is a nice way for them to cut the branch they are sitting on!

    And what are these demands? This factory is mostly run by robots. So how can they claim that the are injured more often than the industry standard!

    As for the harassment, well why did she did not leave? Or was it a he?

    I find the timing of these people very bad. Do they want Tesla to die, and they lose their jobs?

    Elon, get cracking and replace these workers with more robots.

    1. Bacardi says:

      Far more human interaction than one thinks…True automation is “lights out” you don’t even need waste money with lighting…During the M3 reveal we could see the assembly line and a lot of human interaction…Most likely not a single M3 during it’s entire life cycle will be built without human intervention…

  8. TomArt says:

    *sigh* people over profits…always…thanks for restoring my faith in people, dear fellow readers :p HELLO!!! We Are All Human.

    I’ll never understand the hatred of unions, nor the blatand disregard for their continued need.

    Everyone needs a union, really. While collars have given up their souls to long hours in salary positions to the point that it’s the standard now. Wonder why we’re so screwed up in this country – everyone works themselves into the ground for no reason…no family time…crazy hours that are not more productive…fools. We are all fools.

    Germany does it right – where 1/3 (or 1/2, I forget which) of the company board is made up of employees.

    1. SparkEV says:

      Everything’s about money. Only a 5 year old would think otherwise.

      Unions are theft over people. They want their gang members to extort more money from a company while preventing other people not in the gang to get paid, always by threat of violence.

      Entrenched union thuggery is part of the reason why vast majority of innovation of the world (like Tesla) occur in US and not in Germany.

    2. CCIE says:

      If unions functioned more fairly, I wouldn’t be opposed to them. But, they protect inept workers and only allow promotion/advancement based on seniority. That system means that excellent workers stop trying once they realize their efforts can’t get them anywhere. And, it allows poor workers to continue in their jobs forever.

      Unions had a purpose in the US at one point. And maybe they work in other counties. But in the US they’re now corrupt and anti-business.

      Talk to a younger professional in a union job (like a state worker) sometime. Even they are amazed at how bad the system is. But once they drink the koolaid for a few years and get seniority, they fall in line and enjoy the benefits while doing minimal work.

    3. terminaltrip421 says:

      my mom works with numbers of unionized hospital employees here in california who would have lost their jobs long ago for flagrant violations (like leaving the grounds while clocked in, going into empty patient rooms to watch television while on the clock, stealing food meant for patient, and on and on and on..) but instead these people are nearly impossible to fire, so instead generally nothing whatsoever is done.

    4. Robert Middleswarth says:

      There are entire building in New York where they park teachers that are so bad they don’t want them near students anymore but it takes years to fire them so they park them in building to sit and collect checks. Problems like this is why people dislike unions so bad.

      1. Steven says:

        “The rubber room”

  9. Warren Hurd says:

    Unions are by their nature parasitic, and ultimately consume their hosts. They then wither and die.

  10. K. Tris says:

    Unions are anti-capitalist and anti-free market. If you don’t like working for someone, you go work for someone else or you go work for yourself.

    “It also asks Tesla to steer clear of making “anti-union” statements.” – This statement really gets me mad. They seem to forget who works for whom.

    Unfortunately, Tesla has too little money to close the Fremont factory and open up somewhere else. What Tesla really needs to do right now is invest money in a separate factory dedicated solely to producing the Model 3. This should alleviate the long work hours at the Fremont factory so the slacker employees won’t have much to complain about. When that happens, start to crack down on your work force and either substitute them with robot or more honest working folks that don’t believe in nonsense such as unions.

  11. CVVH says:

    Wow. I am really disappointed and discouraged by all the anti-union rhetoric here.

    Do you not realize what the end game is here? Step 1) Destabilize/destroy unions. Step 2) lobby congress to roll back protections and labor laws.

    If employee benefits had kept pace with inflation and productivity gains since initial labor laws like the 40hr work week had gone into place. An individual would only have to work 8hours/wk to have the same living standard. Families would not need 2 full time workers in the household just to keep their heads above water.

    Unions need to exist as long as companies continue to announce record profits and huge CEO bonuses, but at the same time cry they can’t afford to give their workers raises or increased benefits. Instead they are puppets of Wall Street, and announce thousands in layoffs, to get their stocks up to 10+% instead of being happy with long term slow gains like 3-5%.

    1. CCIE says:

      I’m not really anti-union. I just don’t like how US unions currently function. Personal skill and ineptitude need to be rewarded/punished. Unions only care about seniority, so the excellent worker gets penalized and the poor worker gets to keep their job. That’s not fair and really sounds like communism.

      If unions allowed advancement based on merit and allowed terminations of poor workers, I’d have no issue.

      I work in IT and think that reasonable unions are badly needed for staff-level IT workers. They’re considered white-collar, but most are programming/support drones who should be hourly and be able to unionize. Unfortunately no reasonable unions exist in the US.

    2. K. Tris says:

      You are absolutely right, I am against unions in every way. It is a disgusting concept to me. An employee of mine can’t tell me, the boss, what to do when it’s my business and I’m in charge. If you don’t like working for me;

      1. You come to me and we’ll negotiate something from your grievances (if they’re justified)
      2. You leave and go work for someone else
      3. You leave to become your own boss and start your own business

      Those are the only choices you have in a capitalistic free market (special circumstances not included). As for the checks and balances thing that is thrown around by all you pro-union guys/gals, it already exists today and it’s called Federal and State labor laws. Yes it’s thanks to unions in the 1800s why those laws exist now but workers don’t need a middle man to represent them in this modern age. Laws keep a corporation in check and so long as the corporation follows said laws, it can direct it’s employees to do whatever it wants.

      1. abc123 says:

        @K. Tris

        “1. You come to me and we’ll negotiate something from your grievances (if they’re justified)”

        yeah. Good luck with that when you have thousands of employees. You will probably spend most of your time handling grievances than running the company… especially during “Production Hell”

        Unions are there to not only protect workers from unfair labor practices, but also protect workers from other workers.

    3. TomArt says:

      You are absolutely right, CVVH. The propaganda in this country has been very effective these last few decades. People now willfully, freely argue in favor of their employers while leaving themselves with nowhere to turn.

  12. x says:

    @CVVH

    you sir have a point. But also you have to keep n mind that the anti-union people do have some examples of people being really lazy (sleeping at work), showing up drunk at work etc because they know they are protected by the Union – whose leaders are paid way too much too, just like some executives are. Both sides are partially right, and yet their disease is the same : greed.

    1. TomArt says:

      quite a few people get away with that in the private sector because of who they know higher up.

      The abuse is minimal in unions, but it cannot be zero because humans are involved.

  13. ThombDeBhomb says:

    We can’t let the people increase their power through unions. The corporations don’t have enough money yet. The middle class is doing just fine.

    1. TomArt says:

      Exactly.

  14. Bacardi says:

    If you’re in the “no way Tesla will ever deliver a $35K M3” camp, you’d think Tesla would jump at the opportunity to be invaded by the union which requires them to raise the price of the car…

  15. William says:

    The Nummi Plant in Fremont, and unions have been a bad mix in the past, lets see how this time plays out.

    1. CCIE says:

      Yeah, GM and Toyota ran away in fear. I’m not sure what Musk was smoking when he decided to open a factory in CA instead of a business friendly state.

      He really needs to open another one outside CA so he has some leverage over workers when they inevitably unionize.

  16. Derek says:

    Refreshing comments.
    I was going to leave an anti-union remark…but that would be like giving an Eskimo an ice cube. (pointless)

  17. Unions suck says:

    OMG! time to look for a new car to buy. I’ll never be Abe to get a model 3 now. They’ll be more strikes than work days now.

    Fire them all and make everyone apply for their job again.

  18. Guy/Gal says:

    Thank God I don´t have to live in the US.
    Europe is much better.

    1. CCIE says:

      I’ve visited a lot of Europe. It’s generally a nice place with nice people (well, not the french). But, it’s largely socialist and class barriers are very hard to cross. People seem content to work menial jobs because they pay relatively well. I think that’s actually a negative because it dampens people’s desire to improve their situation.

      In the US the middle class still dominates (though it is shrinking). And no one cares about your background. If you put in effort and pull yourself up, you’ll be accepted. Most importantly, being at the bottom stinks, so people have incentive to try to improve their situation.

      Unfortunately we’re moving in the socialist direction of Europe. At some point it will be easy for people to live on basic assistance and do nothing. That’s the end of the American dream.

  19. abc123 says:

    IMHO, Unions are essential when you have a company that employs thousands of workers.

    Unions usually have a process in which the worker can file grievances against the company or another worker for various legitimate and sometimes illegitimate reasons. Aside from collective bargaining, unions triage grievances so that the CEO or management doesn’t have to handle each case personally. Every company has some form of politics and workers love to play this game as well.

    No system is perfect.

    However, during this “Production Hell,” you can be sure that some workers are going to into trouble. Either getting hurt, causing injury to others, harassment, or just being an a-hole. It is not as straight forward as Elon is leading you to believe. Elon is known to yell at his workers when things are not going his way. Is this harassment? “Production Hell” would probably mean a lot of overtime hours as well. How does the company calculate this? Are the workers expected to work holidays, weekends, how long and how many breaks in between? State labor laws may cover some of this, but it may not. In cases where it is not, it is entirely up to the company to set these rules.

    “If you don’t like it, quit, and get another job… that is capitalism” Sure. Except that when you started, things were great. You moved here and laid down roots. Then when crunch time comes, the company changes the rules – because there is no state law and so it’s their discretion on how you should work. To make deadlines, they change the rules to benefit them, not you. Sometimes it’s not as easy as just getting another job because jobs in your field will all have copied what this company has done that made you quit in the first place.

    The point is, do not underestimate the power of money. Companies are driven by money. So far, Elon is at the helm and he generally has good intentions. As soon as he is gone, the direction of the company falls under the supervision of bean counters. That is when terms like “efficiency and cost cutting” are thrown around and people will be expected to do more for less.

    1. CCIE says:

      Unions came very close to destroying the big 3 American auto manufacturers between the mid-70s and mid-90s. The unions got corrupt and workers realized they could do shoddy work with no repercussions. This led to unreliable products, while foreign companies (mostly Japanese) were providing reliable products. The automakers fed into this by not standing up to the UAW.

      Product quality needs to come above worker needs, or the company fails and the workers lose their jobs. But, most union workers don’t see that. They just want an easy job that they can’t fired from.

      Public service unions are even worse since we all have to pay for the inept workers through taxes.

      1. windbourne says:

        Baloney.
        The Unions have NEVER destroyed a company any more than a single employee has.
        Who has destroyed companies are lazy Executives who are looking out for #1, as in themselves, and NOT the company.

        The auto makers back then should have worked closer with the unions. For example, clear back in the 50-60s, QA was really developed in America and PUSHED on US car makers. Of course, the executives said that they would do it, and then made exceptions for themselves.

        Likewise, the executives paid themselves great money with loads of perks (that were NOT reported at that time).

        As to pension funds, the car makers PURPOSELY did not fund them the way that they should have.

        No, the buck stops here is with the HEAD OF THE COMPANY, NOT PUTTING BLAME ON ALL OTHERS.

        1. CCIE says:

          As I’ve said above, I’m not really anti-union and they once were a positive force.

          But today they have corrupt leaders, allow inept/lazy workers to keep their jobs, and prevent good workers from advancing. Any system so focused on seniority and protecting all workers, no matter how inept they are, cannot work.

          Unions have caused their own downfall. Eventually even the public service unions will be broken because they refuse to reasonably negotiate in good faith. Tax payers won’t forever tolerate overpaid useless employees being keeping their jobs and ridiculous pensions/medical while they themselves have to earn a living honestly.

  20. Trace says:

    It seems nobody here wants to buy a Telsa eventually, much less a house or groceries.

    Wages have been driven down since the 1970s because of the attack on collective bargaining. A nation of 99% peasants and 1% that’s rich means Tesla has nobody to sell their Model 3s to.

    Ford Factory Manager looking over the new robot assembly line to UAW president: I bet you’re wondering how you’re going to unionize those robots.
    UAW Prez: Actually I was wondering how you are going to get those robots to buy your cars.

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