Tesla employees training

Tesla employees receive training at the company's factory in Fremont, California on July 26, 2018.

(Photo: Mason Trinca/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

As UAW Ramps Up Organizing, Tesla Boosts Wages for US Factory Workers

"This is the latest sign that Elon Musk is scared of the UAW push to unionize all nonunion autoworkers across the country."

The electric vehicle maker Tesla has reportedly informed workers at its California plant that it is hiking wages for factory employees across the United States, becoming the latest nonunion car manufacturer to boost worker pay following the United Auto Workers' historic strike and contract victories late last year.

Bloomberg reported Thursday that all of Tesla's production associates, material handlers, and quality inspectors will receive a "market adjustment pay increase" to start 2024, according to a flyer that company management posted at its Fremont, California plant—which employs more than 20,000 workers.

The document did not make clear the size of the raise, Bloomberg noted.

Tesla is run by billionaire Elon Musk, who has been vocally hostile toward organized labor for years—a stance that has drawn scrutiny and rebukes from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). In a 2018 post on Twitter, a platform he now owns and rebranded as X, Musk wrote that there is "nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union."

"But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing?" he added. The NLRB said the post constituted an unlawful threat against workers considering exercising their right to organize.

After the UAW secured significant wage increases and other contract wins at the Big Three U.S. automakers following a six-week strike last year, the union launched what's been described as the largest organizing drive in modern U.S. history, targeting Volkswagen, Toyota, and other nonunion car makers. (Volkswagen and Toyota both raised workers' wages following the UAW's contract victories.)

On Wednesday, the union announced that more than 30% of the workers at a Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama have signed union cards.

"I feel like we're living to work when we should be working to live," said Moesha Chandler, an assembly team member at the Tuscaloosa factory. "I started as a temp making $17.50 an hour. I'm full-time now, but I'm still living paycheck to paycheck. If I have a shopping spree, it's for my work clothes, not fun clothes. If we had the union, we'd feel more protected, more at ease. We wouldn't feel like a gazelle to a lion."

Emboldened by its recent contract victories, UAW is also setting its sights on Tesla. Bloomberg reported in late October that the union has "committed to providing whatever resources are necessary" to organize Tesla's Fremont factory.

Workers at the plant have formed an organizing committee and have been discussing unionization with their fellow employees, according to Bloomberg.

Last week, dozens of Senate Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sent a letter to Musk and other auto executives raising concerns over their efforts to stifle union organizing.

"For example, according to employee accounts, Volkswagen managers confiscated and destroyed pro-union materials and Hyundai supervisors unlawfully banned pro-union materials in nonwork areas outside of normal working hours," the lawmakers wrote. "In addition, the National Labor Relations Board found that Tesla employed multiple illegal tactics aimed at stopping organizing efforts including online harassment, employee interrogations, and retaliatory firings."

"These retaliatory actions are hostile to workers' rights and must not be repeated if further organizing efforts are made by these companies' workers," the senators added. "We therefore urge you to commit to implementation of a neutrality agreement at your manufacturing plants."

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