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Tesla is raising factory worker pay as auto union tries to organize its electric vehicle plants

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January 11, 2024
By The Associated Press

Photo courtesy Tesla

DETROIT (AP) — Factory workers at Tesla have been told to expect pay raises this year, a move that comes as the United Auto Workers union tries to organize the electric vehicle maker’s U.S. plants.

The UAW said Thursday that Tesla workers have told the union about company statements on the raises, which did not give details about the size of the increases.

After winning strong contracts with Detroit’s three automakers last year, the union has embarked on an effort to organize all nonunion auto plants in the U.S., including Tesla’s assembly and battery factories in Texas, California and Nevada.

The Tesla raises come after nearly all companies with nonunion auto plants announced worker pay increases shortly after the UAW contracts were ratified.

The UAW said its organizing drive will target more than a dozen U.S. plants run by Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Subaru, Mazda, Volkswagen, Mercedes, BMW and Volvo. Tesla also is on the list, along with EV startups Rivian and Lucid.

UAW President Shawn Fain has called the raises at nonunion automakers the “UAW bump,” saying that they were given in an effort to thwart union organizing efforts.

“As great as these raises are, they still fall far short of what the companies can afford and what autoworkers are worth,” Fain said in a statement Thursday.

A message was left Thursday seeking comment from Tesla, which is based in Austin, Texas.

Tesla production workers, material handlers and quality inspectors will get a “market adjustment” pay raise, according to Bloomberg News, which reported the raises early Thursday.

The UAW said this week that over 30% of workers at a Mercedes-Benz plant near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, have signed cards authorizing a vote on union representation.

The action at Mercedes comes after more than 1,000 workers at Volkswagen’s Tennessee factory signed similar cards authorizing a vote.

The union says its strategy includes calling for an election at factories when about 70% of the workers sign up. A union can seek an election run by the National Labor Relations Board once a majority of workers support it.

The UAW pacts with General Motors, Ford and Jeep maker Stellantis include 25% pay raises by the time the contracts end in April of 2028. With cost-of-living increases, workers will see about 33% in raises for a top assembly wage of $42 per hour, plus annual profit sharing, the union said.

Tesla also has found itself locked in an increasingly bitter dispute with union workers in Sweden and neighboring countries. The electric car maker’s CEO Elon Musk is staunchly anti-union.

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