Tesla has had a pretty easy time of avoiding accountability amid allegations of poor and racist working conditions. Of course it has! It operates in the U.S., which has spent decades eroding union protections. Tesla is expanding into Germany now, and it has another thing coming.
Joerg Hofmann, head of Germany’s largest union IG Metall, spoke with Reuters about Tesla’s upcoming Gigafactory outside of Berlin. The plant has been having some issues, ironic issues, in that it’s supposed to be supporting a new green economy and it’s been threatening the local environment.
In addition to being at odds with its obligations to nature, the Gigafactory has been getting into it over its obligations to its workers. The State Office for Occupational Safety has opened a probe into the construction of the plant, investigating if Tesla was meeting minimum wage requirements, working hours requirements, and construction safety standards, as Business Insider reports.
It is with this in mind that I enjoy this line from Reuters’ article speaking with Hofmann:
“If the team for Gruenheide is on board we will establish a works council with the employees and organise them.”
Hofmann’s comments, coming shortly after a report in Business Insider saying that German authorities are probing possible violations of labour laws at the Gruenheide site, suggest Tesla will have a tough time avoiding organised labour in Europe’s top economy. read more
Hofmann said that while meaningful talks with Tesla in Germany were not easy due to numerous leadership changes that have taken place at the carmaker, IG Metall welcomed Tesla’s decision to establish itself in Germany.
Tesla is welcome — welcome! — to establish itself in Germany. It will just be doing so in a place where works councils are the norm, not something that gets campaigned against and stifled. Some big businesses (like Volkswagen) want to play more fast and loose with their workers, and hope Tesla will help them get away with it. That’s an uphill battle, though.
What’s funny about all of this is that I’m sure that Tesla will eventually get its Germany Gigafactory up and running, and it will do so with a union workforce, and it will end up with a successful and healthy operation. And in doing so it’ll be putting a hole the arguments used in its own anti-union campaigns at its home base of Fremont.