If Tesla Gets Unionized, It’s ‘Because We Failed In Some Way’: Musk

The United Auto Workers announced yesterday that workers at more than a dozen automakers have launched simultaneous campaigns across the U.S. to join the union.

Automakers targeted by the UAW include Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Subaru, Mazda, Hyundai, Tesla, Rivian, and Lucid.

If you’re familiar with Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s stand on unions, you know he did not take that well. Asked about the UAW’s plans at a New York Times event, Tesla’s CEO said the EV maker treats employees well, which is why he doesn’t see the need for the UAW at its plants.

“If Tesla gets unionized, it will be because we deserve it, and we failed in some way,” Musk said according to Automotive News. He added that Tesla is giving its workers the opportunity to become millionaires through stock options and advance in their careers to management positions.

“But we certainly try hard to ensure the prosperity of everyone. We give everyone stock options. We’ve made many people who were just working the line, who didn’t even know what stocks were, we’ve made them millionaires,” he said.

Musk noted that unions generally bring “an adversarial relationship” between one group at the company and another group. “The unions naturally try to create negativity in a company and create a sort of lords and peasants situation,” he said.

At Tesla factories there’s less of a divide than at UAW plants, Musk suggested, with workers and management eating at the same table and parking in the same parking lot.

Musk has opposed unionization at Tesla plants in the U.S. in the past, including at the company’s first vehicle assembly site in Fremont, California.

In 2018, he tweeted that Tesla workers in Fremont were free to join a union but seemed to suggest that those who will would have to give up stock options. As a result, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled the comment violated labor laws, but Tesla appealed the decision in court.

Earlier this year, Tesla terminated a group of workers at its Buffalo, New York site a day after they launched a unionization campaign. Last week, NLRB dismissed claims that Tesla illegally fired the employees to bring an end to unionization efforts, Reuters reported.

After a historic strike that lasted 40 days and affected Detroit Three plants simultaneously for the first time, UAW members at Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis have voted to ratify their new contracts earlier this month, locking in record raises ranging from at least 33% to over 160% for some of the lowest-paid workers.