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HomeMarketTesla Faces Push to Unionize: Report. It's About Software, Not Assembly Line.

Tesla Faces Push to Unionize: Report. It’s About Software, Not Assembly Line.

Tesla’s main business is making cars, but there is more under the corporate umbrella.

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Courtesy Tesla

is facing a new effort to unionize its employees. It’s happening in a way that could really only happen to Elon Musk’s car company.

Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that
(ticker: TSLA) workers in Buffalo have started a unionization effort. Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, are helping.

Workers United and Tesla didn’t respond to requests for comment about the unionization efforts.

Tesla has what it refers to as Gigafactory 2 in the area. It’s a plant that makes solar and energy-storage products, rather than cars.

That is the first way in which the Tesla unionization story is a little different from what might happen at a traditional auto maker. Tesla has more business under its corporate umbrella than just building and selling automobiles.

The type of workers seeking unionization is another factor that makes Tesla’s story different.
Ford Motor
(F) and
General Motors
(GM) have tens of thousands of unionized employees, most of whom are are building cars.

That isn’t the case for Tesla in Buffalo. Workers there are more familiar with coding and keyboards than paint guns and pneumatic tools. The employees seeking representation work on the software used in Tesla’s driver assistance features: Autopilot, which does things such as keep the car in a lane and manage speed on highways, and Full Self Driving,a separate $15,000 package that performs a broader range of tasks.

The type of union involvedis a third difference. Workers United isn’t a traditional manufacturing-based union like the UAW. Its parent, the SEIU, represents service employees. Ford has about 57,000 workers are represented by the United Auto Workers, or UAW in the U.S. About 46,000 GM workers are represented by the UAW.

Tesla CEO Musk has expressed some mixed views about unions in the past, mostly via Twitter. He has complained about unions controlling the politics of Democrats, but has also invited the UAW to try to unionize Tesla facilities, saying “Tesla will do nothing to stop them.”

At the end of 2022, about 10.1% of salaried and hourly workers in the U.S. were represented by unions. That amounts to about 14.3 million workers. The percentage represented slipped from 10.3% at the end of 2021.

About 13.9% of U.S. workers were represented by a union as this century began.

The unionization story isn’t affecting the stock. Tesla shares were up 4.9% in afternoon trading Tuesday. The
S&P 500
had slipped 0.1%, while the
Nasdaq Composite
was up 0.2%.

Tesla shares have been volatile lately after a big run early in the year. So far, Tesla stock is up about 65% so far in 2023. It has roughly doubled from the Jan. 6 low of $101.82.

lets cut Gigafactory 1 is in Nevada. Number one could be considered Tesla’s Fremont plant in California, but Tesla starting calling its factories Gigafactories around 2013 when it was constructing the Nevada battery manufacturing facility. After that, Tesla, along with many companies in the car business, refer to plants as Gigafactories.


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