UAW Has Its Eye On Tesla Factory Workers

At at news conference yesterday in Detroit, United Auto Workers president Dennis Miller said his union is keeping a close eye on Tesla Motors. The company shocked the automotive world earlier this month its CEO, Elon Musk, announced that he is moving up the timetable for production of the new Model 3.

UAW president Dennis Williams

Previously, Musk had said that Tesla would be manufacturing 500,000 cars a year by 2020, a claim that many in the car industry greeted with skepticism if not outright derision. But now Musk says he has moved the goal posts. Instead of 2020, he wants to do it two full years earlier. The new target date is 2018. In fact, Model 3 production is now scheduled to begin July 1, 2017. Musk says Tesla could build 100,000 to 200,000 Model 3 cars before the end of 2017.

If Musk gets his wish, Tesla will leapfrog Mercedes and BMW in terms of US production and become the ninth largest car manufacturer in the America. Currently, the UAW has taken only a passing interest in Tesla because of its start-up status and the fact that it barely makes 50,000 cars a year. But a ten fold increase in production would be another matter entirely.

“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.” But Williams said his union is “not approaching this in an adversarial way.” Williams said he has met with Elon Musk, who he describes as “creative” and a “very unique individual.”

The 5.3 million square foot Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif. is presently the only U.S. assembly plant owned by an American automaker that is not represented by a union. Foreign manufacturers with assembly plants in the US have largely avoided the union issue, mostly by locating their facilities in states where union power is traditionally weak. California may be a different proposition, as it usually considered a liberal state.

Williams did express a degree of skepticism regarding Tesla’s production plans. “I don’t think they’ve ever met their mark yet on production,” he said. But Musk is adamant about meeting production targets for the new Model 3. He says the company has learned from its mistakes with the Model S and Model X and is determined to bring the Model 3 to market as soon as possible.

Source: USA Today  Photo credit: UAW


Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.