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UAW has Tesla and Toyota in its crosshairs after securing contracts with Detroit automakers

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain gestures in solidarity with strikers during a rally at UAW Local 551, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, in Chicago.

John J. Kim | Tribune News Service | Getty Images

DETROIT – United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain wants to expand the Detroit automakers union’s fight to You’re here, Toyota engine and other non-union automakers operating in the United States

The outspoken executive plans to use record contracts recently won after contentious negotiations and U.S. strikes with General engines, Ford engine and Chrysler-parent Stellantis to help the union in its struggling recruiting efforts elsewhere.

“We created the threat of a good example, and now we’re going to build on that,” Fain said Thursday evening during a discussion on Stellantis agreement in principle. “We simply struck like we’ve never done before and won a historic contract. Now we’re going to organize like we’ve never done before.”

That would greatly help the union’s negotiating efforts and its membership, which has been cut nearly in half, from about 700,000 members in 2001 to 383,000 at the start of this year. UAW membership peaked at 1.5 million in 1979.

The UAW has previously failed to organize foreign-based automakers in the United States. More recently, factories with Volkswagen And Nissan engine did not receive the support needed to unionize. The UAW has previously discussed organizing the Tesla factory in Fremont, California, with little or no success in these efforts.

It remains to be seen whether the recent efforts gain traction at other automakers, but Fain has pledged to go beyond the “Big Three” – Ford, GM and Stellantis – and expand its operations. to the “Big Five or Big Six” as its 4.5-year contracts with Detroit automakers expire in April 2028.

Offers include 25% salary increase it would raise the top wage to more than $40 an hour, restore cost-of-living adjustments, improve profit-sharing payments and other important social, health and employment benefits. The contracts still need to be ratified.

The union has already attracted considerable interest from non-union automakers in light of the tentative agreements, Fain said. And last month, he dismissed comments from Ford Chairman Bill Ford saying the company and union should work together to fight non-U.S. automakers.

“Workers at Tesla, Toyota, Honda and others are not the enemy, they are the UAW members of the future,” Fain said.


Fain has particularly targeted Toyota in recent days.

The automaker earlier this week confirmed its intention to increase salaries in its American factories. The new rates would see hourly manufacturing workers at Kentucky’s highest rates receive pay increases of about 9 percent, to $34.80 an hour.

Fain on Thursday called the pay increase the “UAW raise,” joking that the UAW stands for “U Are Welcome” to join the union movement.

UAW President Shawn Fain walks with UAW members in downtown Detroit after a rally in support of members of the United Auto Workers as they strike against the Big Three automakers automobiles on September 15, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan.

Bill Pugliano | Getty Images

“Toyota doesn’t give raises out of the goodness of their hearts,” Fain said. “They might as well have raised wages a month or a year ago. They did it now because the company knows we’re going to come after them.”

Toyota, which employs 49,000 hourly and salaried workers in the United States, said “the decision to unionize is ultimately made by our team members.”

“By engaging in honest, two-way communication about what’s happening in the company, we aim to foster positive morale that ultimately leads to increased productivity,” the company said in an emailed statement Friday. “Working together has provided our team members with stable employment and income.”

You’re here

The UAW has so far been unable to garner enough support to force a unionization vote at Tesla facilities, including in Fremont, California, where the union previously represented workers when it s It was a GM-Toyota joint venture.

Fain THURSDAY told Bloomberg News that he thought organizing Tesla and recruiting CEO Elon Musk was “doable.”

“We can beat anyone,” Fain told Bloomberg. “It’s up to the people who work for him to decide if they want their fair share… or if they want him to fly into space himself at their expense.”

Yet Musk has historically clashed with union supporters.

As some workers sought to form a union at the Fremont factory in 2017 and 2018, Tesla paid a consulting firm named MWW PR to monitor employees in a Facebook group and on social media generally, such as CNBC previously reported.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and owner of X, arrives for the inaugural AI Insight Forum at the Russell Building on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, September 13, 2023.

Tom Williams | Cq-roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

Tesla also terminated the employment of a union activist named Richard Ortiz in 2017. And in 2018, Musk said in a tweet: “Nothing stops the Tesla team at our car factory from voting to unionize.” contributions and giving up stock options for nothing? »

The tweet violated federal labor laws, the National Labor Relations Board later found.

An administrative court ordered Tesla to reinstate Ortiz and require Musk to delete his tweet, which he said threatened workers’ compensation. Tesla appealed the decision, and Musk’s offensive post remains on the social media platform which Musk now owns, has been rebranded as X and is CTO and executive chairman.

In February, another group of organizers filed a complaint with the NLRB, claiming Tesla fired more than 30 employees at its Buffalo facility in retaliation for union pressure from Tesla Workers United. Tesla called the workers’ allegations false, saying 4% of its Autopilot data labeling team in Buffalo was fired due to performance issues.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency responsible for enforcing civil rights laws against discrimination in the workplace, sued Tesla in September, alleging widespread racist harassment against black workers and retaliation against those who spoke out.

And at the end of October, just over 100 Tesla service employees in Sweden, members of the industrial workers group IF Metal, left his job for a short strike. Hundreds of mechanics and technicians from non-Tesla shops have also agreed not to repair any of the electric vehicle makers’ cars. in solidarity. However, Tesla has so far refused to negotiate with IF Metall.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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