United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain gestures in solidarity with striking workers during a rally at UAW Local 551 on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, in Chicago.
John J. Kim | Tribune news service | fake images
DETROIT – United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain wants to expand the union’s battle from Detroit automakers to tesla, ToyotaEngine and other non-union automakers operating in the US.
The outspoken leader plans to use record contracts recently won after contentious negotiations and labor strikes in the United States with General Motors, Ford engine and Chrysler-parent stellantis to aid the union’s beleaguered organizing efforts elsewhere.
“We’ve created the threat of a good example, and now we’re going to take advantage of it,” Fain said Thursday night when discussing the tentative Stellantis deal. “We simply went on strike like we had never done before, and as a result, we won a historic contract. Now we are going to organize like we have never done before.”
Doing so would greatly help the union’s bargaining efforts and membership, which has dropped nearly in half, from about 700,000 members in 2001 to 383,000 earlier this year. UAW membership peaked at 1.5 million in 1979.
Previously, the UAW had failed to organize foreign automakers in the U.S. More recently, plants with volkswagen and NissanEngine They did not achieve the necessary support to unionize. The UAW has previously discussed organizing Tesla’s Fremont plant in California with little to no push on those efforts.
It remains to be seen whether recent efforts are gaining traction at other automakers, but Fain has promised to go beyond the “Big Three” (Ford, GM and Stellantis) and expand into the “Big Five or Six” by the time the moment. Their four-and-a-half-year contracts with the Detroit automakers expire in April 2028.
The agreements include 25% wage increases that would raise the maximum wage to more than $40 per hour, the restoration of cost-of-living adjustments, enhanced profit-sharing payments and other important wage, health care and employment benefits. The contracts still must be ratified.
The union has already received significant interest from non-union automakers in light of the tentative agreements, Fain said. And last month, he rejected comments from Ford Chairman Bill Ford, arguing that the company and the union should work together to fight non-U.S. automakers.
“Workers at Tesla, Toyota, Honda and others are not the enemy: they are the UAW members of the future,” Fain said.
Fain has taken special aim at Toyota in recent days.
The automaker confirmed plans to raise wages at its U.S. factories earlier this week. The new rates would see the highest-rate hourly manufacturing employees in Kentucky receive pay increases of about 9% to $34.80 an hour.
On Thursday, Fain called that pay raise “the UAW raise,” joking that UAW stands for “U Are Welcome” to join the union movement.
UAW President Shawn Fain marches with UAW members through downtown Detroit after a rally in support of United Auto Workers members as they strike against the Big Three automakers on September 15, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan.
Bill Pugliano | fake images
“Toyota is not giving raises out of the goodness of its heart,” Fain said. “They could have just as easily raised wages a month or a year ago. They did it now because the company knows we’re coming after them.”
Toyota, which has 49,000 U.S. salaried and hourly workers, said “the decision to unionize is ultimately made by our team members.”
“By engaging in honest, two-way communication about what’s happening in the company, we aim to foster positive morale that ultimately leads to greater productivity,” the company said Friday in an emailed statement. “Working together has provided a history of stable employment and income for our team members.”
So far, the UAW has been unable to rally enough support to force a union vote at Tesla facilities, including its Fremont, California, plant, where the union previously represented workers when it was a joint venture between GM and Toyota.
Fain told Bloomberg News on Thursday that he believes organizing Tesla and taking on CEO Elon Musk is “doable.”
“We can beat anyone,” Fain told Bloomberg. “It will be up to the people who work for him to decide if they want their fair share of him… or if they want him to fly into outer space at his expense.”
Still, Musk has historically clashed with union advocates.
When some workers tried to form a union at the company’s Fremont factory in 2017 and 2018, Tesla was paying a consulting firm called MWW PR to monitor employees in a Facebook group and on social media in general, as it previously reported. CNBC.
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and owner of X, arrives at the inaugural AI Insight Forum at the Russell Building on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, September 13, 2023.
Tom Williams | Cq-roll Call, Inc. | fake images
Tesla also fired a union activist named Richard Ortiz in 2017. And in 2018, Musk said in a tweet: “Nothing is stopping the Tesla team at our auto plant from voting for the union. They could do it now if they wanted to. But, “Why pay union dues and give up stock options for nothing?”
The tweet violated federal labor laws, the National Labor Relations Board later found.
An administrative court ordered Tesla to reinstate Ortiz and have Musk delete his tweet, which it concluded threatened workers’ compensation. Tesla appealed the ruling and Musk’s offending post remains on the social media platform Musk now owns, which he has renamed X and serves as chief technology officer and executive chairman.
In February, a different group of organizers filed a complaint with the NLRB alleging that Tesla had laid off more than 30 employees at its Buffalo facility in retaliation for a union push by Tesla Workers United. Tesla called the workers’ allegations false and said 4% of its Autopilot data tagging team in Buffalo had been fired due to performance issues.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency responsible for enforcing civil rights laws against workplace discrimination, sued Tesla in September, alleging widespread racist harassment of Black workers and retaliation against those who spoke out. .
And in late October, just over 100 of Tesla’s Swedish service employees, members of the industrial labor group IF Metall, walked off the job to go on a brief strike. Hundreds of mechanics and technicians from non-Tesla shops also agreed not to repair any of the EV makers’ cars in solidarity. However, Tesla has so far refused to negotiate with IF Metall.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.