Tesla Workers at Buffalo Gigafactory Aiming to Unionize
Written by Joey Klender, Teslarati
Published Feb. 14, 2023
Tesla employees at the company’s Gigafactory in Buffalo, NY, are aiming to unionize.
If successful, it would be the first Tesla facility to have an active union. Bloomberg reported employees sent an email to CEO Elon Musk on Feb. 14, communicating their intent to unionize, which would include better pay, more job security and a reduction in production pressures.
“Unionizing will further accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy because it will give us a voice in our workplace and in the goals we set for ourselves to accomplish,” employees said in the letter.
Workers said Tesla’s tracking of how much time they spend on specific tasks and actively working has led to some employees skipping things as necessary as taking a bathroom break.
Forming a union at Giga Buffalo would help some of the more than 1,900 employees at the factory secure better pay while also securing their jobs. Employees said they feel like they’re rushed to get things done and could potentially be sacrificing accuracy in an attempt to increase output.
More than 800 employees at the factory are involved in Autopilot labeling, and their pay starts at $19 per hour. These employees are evidently the ones who are pushing for potential unionization at the facility.
“People are tired of being treated like robots,” said Al Celli of the union’s organizing committee.
In the past, Musk has not necessarily been supportive of establishing a union at the company’s plants, but he has never completely eliminated any possibility of the idea, and has put the choice in the hands of Tesla employees.
In March 2022, Musk invited the UAW to hold a union vote at Tesla’s Fremont factory in Northern California. He has been critical of the organization in the past and maintains that workers already have better health insurance and safety records than when the Fremont plant was operated under union rules.
Before Tesla took over the plant in 2010, it was owned by NUMMI, the joint venture between General Motors and Toyota. The UAW was present in the facility.
However, according to the Bloomberg report, SpaceX, another Musk-owned company, has also extended unionization requests. Some said they were “illegally retaliated against” after writing an open letter to Musk last year. Additionally, a bipartisan group of U.S. labor board members said in 2021 that Tesla “coercively” interrogated union supporters and fired another because of his push to establish a union at the plant. Tesla is appealing this ruling currently.
Based on quotes from various workers, most want additional input and more of a say in what happens in the workplace.