Auto union chief responds to Elon Musk ‘inviting’ UAW to organize Tesla workers

Tesla Motors founder and CEO Elon Musk speaks during a media tour of the Tesla Gigafactory, which will produce batteries for the electric car maker, in Sparks, Nevada.

James Glover II | Reuters

If Tesla CEO Elon Musk is serious about praising the company’s efforts to organize the American workforce, the automaker should rehire a laid-off employee and stop trying to reverse a decision that it violated federal labor laws, an auto union leader said.

United Auto Workers President Ray Curry said such actions would be a “good faith effort” and “demonstrate a commitment to the workers at the plant” in Fremont, California.

In 2018, Musk tweeted a comment that was found to violate federal labor laws after Tesla had previously fired labor activist Richard Ortiz. The National Labor Relations Board eventually ordered Tesla to rehire the employee and asked Musk to delete the tweet, which he considered a workers’ compensation threat.

Tesla is however appealing the decision of the administrative court.

Curry spoke at an Automotive Press Association webinar on Tuesday. His remarks followed more provocative tweets from Musk earlier in the day. The CEO, who has 79.5 million Twitter followers, wrote: “The UAW stole millions from workers, while Tesla made many workers millionaires (via stock exchanges). Subtle, but important difference.”

The Detroit-based union is under federal oversight through a court-approved monitor as part of a settlement between the UAW and the government following a multi-year corruption probe that sent 15 people in jail, including two recent UAW presidents and three Fiat Chrysler executives.

The investigation revealed years of kickbacks and kickbacks involving millions of dollars and several senior union leaders.

Earlier this month, Musk said on Twitter that he was “inviting” the UAW to try to organize the employees of his company’s factory in Fremont. “Tesla won’t do anything to stop them,” he wrote.

Curry said the union “would certainly welcome the opportunity, but they clearly know there are appeals going on.”

United Auto Workers President Ray Curry speaks at the General Motors Factory ZERO electric vehicle assembly plant on November 17, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan.

Nic Antaya | Getty Images

“A key part of this isn’t a whim of a tweet or anything else, an exchange between the UAW and Tesla, it’s about the workers in these places having a voice in the workplace. “inside their workplace. That’s the most important part of this whole process,” Curry said.

Musk’s open invitation to the UAW on March 3 followed Musk earlier in the day by tweeting a YouTube video which he said “helps explain why former UAW members who work at Tesla are not huge UAW fans.” The clip was posted in 2010 by the World Socialist Web Site channel on YouTube.

In the video, workers at the NUMMI factory, which later became the Fremont Tesla factory, complain that a union member was prevented from recording a UAW meeting in the local union hall.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

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