80-Year-Old UAW Takes on 14-Year-Old Tesla

Print Email

When Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) started in 2003, CEO Elon Musk could never have imagined his electric car company would face the prospects of workers who would want to be part of a union. Recently, he found out that the 82-year-old United Automobile Workers (UAW) plans to treat Tesla much as it does other car companies. Apparently, even workers at new-age car companies need support similar to workers who were poorly paid and had no benefits in the 1930s.

The Tesla union effort shows how little the UAW has evolved. One of its primary goals always has been collective bargaining. Jose Moran, one of Tesla’s factory workers wrote:

Many of us have been talking about unionizing, and have reached out to the United Auto Workers for support. … But at the same time, management actions are feeding workers’ fears about speaking out. Recently, every worker was required to sign a confidentiality policy that threatens consequences if we exercise our right to speak out about wages and working conditions.

Musk objects to that, based on the belief he already takes good care of his workers. And his objections border on insult. Writing at Gizmodo, he said:

There is sometimes mandatory overtime if we are trying to make up for a production stoppage, but it is dropping almost every week.

Fights between auto company management and workers always have been guided by claims and counterclaims, many of which are not true. Musk is faced with proving something about which he may know little, depending whether he tours his factory floors and talks to workers.

All Tesla, which has ramped up production, needs is a strike. The UAW has been using that leverage for decades. No reason to stop now.