Fresh off successful contract negotiations with Ford, GM and Stellantis, the United Auto Workers (UAW) is seeking to unionize 150,000 workers across 13 automakers including Tesla, BMW, Mercedes Benz and Hyundai, it announced. "To all the autoworkers out there working without the benefits of a union: now it’s your turn," said UAW president Shawn Fain.
The UAW said the organizing drive covers "more than a dozen" non-union automakers. It notes that many use a mix of full-time, temporary and contract employees "to divide the workforce and depress wages." The union cited one example of a Hyundai assembly plant employee who worked for a subcontractor for eight years starting at $9.25 an hour before finally becoming a full-time Hyundai employee.
Non-union automakers, including VW, Nissan, Hyundai, Honda, Toyota and Subaru raised wages after the UAW's negotiations with the big three. VW, for one, bumped them to $23.42 an hour, rising to a maximum of $32.40. However, they "lag far behind UAW autoworkers in wages, benefits and rights on the job," the union said.
The UAW helped workers win a 25 percent raise over four years with the big three automakers, with the highest-paid Ford workers now earning $83,000 per year for a 40-hour work week (around $42 per hour). The union also gained reinstatement of cost-of-living allowances, shorter progression periods to top wages and a quicker conversion of temporary to in-progression (full-time) employees.
Tesla employees have attempted to unionize the company before, and some alleged that the company fired them for that — though that claim was recently dismissed by the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB has previously found that Tesla violated labor law by prohibiting employees from talking about workplace matters. Back in 2022, Elon Musk challenged the UAW to hold a vote at Tesla's California factory.
Other automakers aren't exempt from worker complaints, including startup Rivian. "The company likes to tell us we’re making the plane while flying it, and that explains a lot about the problems we have," said one Rivian chassis worker. "We have all sorts of safety issues. Turnover is terrible. Every group has a story about a new employee who did not make it to first break. The lack of safety, the low pay, the forced overtime, there are so many reasons we need to be union."