The United Auto Workers (UAW) warned Elon Musk would be hiring Tesla workers right under his nose. Now Musk – a staunch critic of unions – says if his workers had chosen to join, the company would have been to blame.
In an extensive interview during the New York Times’ DealBook Conference This week, Musk said he didn’t like unions because they created divisions within organizations.
The world’s richest man said he had worked hard to create opportunities for workers at the top of his company—even claiming he had made factory workers millionaires thanks to stock options. As a result, he said there is no need for unions like Tesla.
“I think in general it’s not good to have a bad relationship between one group in the company and another group,” Musk said. “I don’t agree with the idea of trade unions … (because) I just don’t like anything that creates something for the masters and the peasants.
“I think unions usually try to create negativity in companies.”
Regardless of Musk’s views on the UAW’s tactics, the union has scored some high-profile victories in recent months. Led by president Shawn Fain, The UAW won the contract in November for a record 33% pay increase for workers at the Detroit Three automakers, which include General Motors, Stellantis, formerly known as Fiat Chrysler, and Ford Motor Company.
After announcing the big win against the big three automakers in the US, Fain made it clear that he would be knocking on Tesla’s door next. The post is on The UAW website reads: “Elon Musk is the richest man in the world, with a fortune of 230 billion dollars. American production has more than doubled since 2020, and Tesla’s sales are increasing.
“The question is, will Tesla workers get their fair share? It’s time for Tesla workers to stand up and fight for more.”
In an interview on November 29, Musk seemed confident that he had done his part to make sure his employees had their share, saying: “There are a lot of people at Tesla who have gone from working on the line to being in senior management. There are no masters and peasants, everyone eats at the table.” one table, everyone parks in the same parking lot.
“The thing is, I know people on the line because I worked on the line.”
Musk, who slept on the floor of Tesla’s factories, added: “I’m not a stranger to them.”
‘We deserve it’
Musk claimed he had offered to hold a company-wide vote on unionization at Tesla “many times”, but was told it had to be voted on by the workers or the union.
“I don’t know, maybe they will unite,” he insisted. “If Tesla is going to merge it will be because we deserved it and because we failed in some way.”
Musk has already had a taste of what could happen if workers decide to join: just a week ago the company suffered its first ever strike.
Swedish industrial union IF Metall suspended the company’s operations in the Scandinavian country after Tesla refused to agree to a wage agreement with 120 mechanics at seven different workshops.
IF Metall announced a strike at the end of October which has since taken on more unions, including dockworkers who are now refusing to unload imported Tesla cars arriving at the port and even workers from the state-owned postal service responsible for issuing license plates.
“This is crazy,” Musk insisted after being introduced in a post on X.
In the US, Tesla has pushed back against union rumblings, recently telling workers they could not wear UAW-branded t-shirts.
A man worth 228 billion dollars at the time of writing he added Tesla “is trying hard to ensure everyone’s well-being,” adding: “We give everyone stock options, we’ve made a lot of people who are working on the line, who didn’t even know what a stock was, we’ve made them millionaires.”
In an appeal to his 120,000 employees at the EV maker, Musk said his main concern about talent is encouraging workers to stay with Tesla when they are offered easier jobs at other businesses.
“The challenge is how do we keep good people doing the hard work of building cars when they have six other opportunities they can do that are easier,” he added. “That’s the real difficulty.”
“I just want to say that I really appreciate those who build cars, and they know it,” he added.