UAW Pushes To Unionize Tesla Factory As Company Expectations Rise

Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Tesla’s flagship Fremont factory is the only non-unionized American-owned assembly factory in the U.S., and the United Auto Workers want to change that. With Tesla considerably upping the manufacturing expectations for its electric fleet, their motives just got stronger.

Those expectations rose to producing 500,000 cars annually—the factory’s max capacity, according to Tesla—by 2018, moving the original date for reaching the goal up by two years. In response, USA Today reports that UAW president Dennis Williams said Thursday that the organization remains interested in unionizing workers. Tesla only delivered about 50,000 Model S and Model X units combined in 2015, and its goal for this year is 80,000. Compare that to goals of 500,000 in 2018, and the factory will have to produce 10 times what it did last year.

Tesla has over 400,000 Model 3 orders waiting to be filled, so it’s not surprising that the manufacturer wants to up production. But Williams wants to keep an eye on just how they achieve that. From USA Today:

“We’re watching that very closely,” UAW President Dennis Williams told reporters in speaking about Tesla. “We just believe workers ought to have a voice in the workplace, and they ought to have collective bargaining rights.”


Williams also doubted Tesla’s production plans, saying that he doesn’t “think they’ve ever met their mark yet on production.” Tesla did meet its delivery expectations in 2015, though—they estimated between 50,000 and 55,000 units delivered, and hit 50,580. That number includes 208 units of the Model X.

USA Today reports that Williams also said he spoke with Tesla CEO Elon Musk, but did not say when that occurred or if the two discussed unionization. Electrek reached out to Tesla regarding its long hours, and this is the reported response:

“There is no doubt that Tesla employees work harder than most. Changing the world is not a 9-5 job. We make this very clear to all candidates when they apply to work at Tesla.

At times, during heavy production ramp, some shops in the factory may have to work on Saturdays. We give everyone advance notice when this is required to ensure they can plan their schedules accordingly. We also provide alternate work schedules for many of our production shops that include compressed work weeks allowing for more flexibility and schedule predictability.”

The UAW isn’t approaching Tesla “in an adversarial way” regarding unions, USA Today cites Williams as saying. Williams also didn’t mention any target dates or plans for trying to unionize the factory.

Staff writer, Jalopnik

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Cue the anti-union sound bites.