Tesla and the United Auto Workers union are scuffling over whether workers at the Tesla assembly plant in Fremont, California, need representation.
The UAW has been eyeing the Tesla plant for several months and apparently has managed to gain a foothold where at least one Tesla employee has stepped forward to identify himself as a union supporter.
Jose Moran, the pro-union employee, also has drawn the wrath of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who labeled him an employee of the United Auto Workers.
The UAW, answering Musk’s charges, said Moran approached the union and he is not, nor has he ever been a UAW employee.
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“Mr. Moran is not and has not been paid by the UAW. We would hope that Tesla would apologize to their employee, Mr. Moran, for spreading fake news about him. We can confirm that Mr. Moran and others at Tesla, have approached the UAW and we welcome them with open arms,” the UAW said in a statement.
The Fremont plant that is the used by Tesla as its major assembly point had been a union stronghold for decades when it was owned by General Motors and then by the GM-Toyota partnership, which dissolved during GM’s bankruptcy in 2009.
Tesla bought the plant after the bankruptcy and while the UAW closed its union hall in Fremont, a pro-union culture appears to have survived inside the sprawling factory where at least some workers also had been employed by GM.
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“I think our management team would agree that our plant doesn’t function as well as it could, but until now they’ve underestimated the value of listening to employees,” Moran, who identifies himself as a worker for four years at the plant, wrote Thursday.
“We need better organization in the plant, and I, along with many of my coworkers, believe we can achieve that by coming together and forming a union.”
The union drive crops up at a critical time in the automaker’s development. Tesla is now preparing the factory, which now makes the Model S and X electric vehicles, to begin producing the more affordable Model 3 sedan in July. Tesla, in filings with the SEC, lists higher costs or work stoppages related to union activities as risks.
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“We have a long history of engaging directly with our employees on the issues that matter to them, and we will continue to do so because it’s the right thing to do,” a Tesla spokesperson said in a statement.