United Auto Workers Union Sets Sights on Tesla Motors California Factory Workers

When we think of an electric car, several economy models like the Chevrolet Volt, the Nissan Leaf, or Toyota Prius might come to mind.  However, for those looking for a higher end luxury or sport model electric car, a Tesla might be a better option. Two of these new model Teslas are the Model S and Model X, and they are being made in a factory in California according to a recent news article from ET Auto.

carsassortedUnlike workers at the Detroit big three automakers and the foreign car companies with manufacturing plants in the United States, Tesla employees are not working in a union shop as of this time.  The United Auto Workers (UAW) union hopes to change that by enrolling enough employees at the electric car factory to have the plant declared a union shop. 

The plant where Tesla vehicles are manufactured was originally occupied by a joint venture between Toyota and General Motors that closed in 2010. At the height of its operation, that plant employed more than 5,000 workers, and those workers were members of the United Auto Workers union.  Today the same plant is occupied by Tesla and employs around a thousand workers who are not currently under the organization of the UAW or any other union.

Leaders of the UAW have said that they met with Elon Musk, the well-known and somewhat eccentric owner of Tesla, to discuss the possibility of the employees joining the union.  The company owner reportedly told the union that his employees were free to do whatever they want in terms of joining a union or not joining a union.  It should be noted that, while an employer cannot not stop an employee from joining a union, as that would be illegal, they do often tell employees how they work at a great place (which is actually the name of the video shown to newly hired workers at Wal-Mart) and tell them how there are disadvantages to joining a union, such as how it can cost them money from their checks in membership fees.

It should be noted that if your employer threatens any type of disciplinary action, including, but not limited to, wrongful termination, or actually takes such retaliatory action, you should contact a Los Angeles County employment lawyer to see if you have a valid claim against your current or former employer.

This factory in California is by no means a major car plant like the ones owned by General Motors or the two other members of the Detroit big three.  They are hoping to one day produce up to 500,000 cars per year which is, in comparison, a relatively small number of vehicles.

The union organizations say they are well aware that the Tesla is very much still a startup and intends to treat it is such, so both the workers and the company will benefit from the union membership. One thing that the union wants to accomplish is to stop the factories from hiring large number of temporary workers instead of traditional employees.  Temporary workers may not be entitled to benefits including health insurance and will not be there long enough to earn raises.  This way, they can pay most of their workers the starting wages all the time.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

UAW seeks to unionize workers at Tesla Motors’ California factory, May 20, 2016, ET Auto, by AFP

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