Hot on the heels of the United Auto Workers’ strike victory against the “Big Three” US automakers, President Joe Biden said he would support UAW’s push to unionize Tesla and Toyota ahead of a planned meeting with UAW president Shawn Fain.
UAW just finished a historic strike against GM, Ford, and Stellantis, declaring victory in gaining improved pay and contract provisions for its workers at all three companies.
But in declaring victory, the UAW already put forward plans for the coming years, including a message that suggests it wants to unionize more automakers.
In UAW’s announcement as the strike ended, Fain said that it plans to come back to the bargaining table in 2028, on May 1, otherwise known as May Day or International Workers’ Day, but that time it “won’t just be with a Big Three, but with a Big Five or Big Six.”
The motivation here is clear: UAW wants to organize more auto companies in the US.
This immediately suggested that there may be a push to unionize some of the large auto companies that until now have remained non-unionized. Namely, Toyota and Tesla come to mind.
And now, Biden is planning a meeting with the UAW, and in advance of that meeting, he said he would support a push to unionize Toyota and Tesla.
Immediately after the UAW came to its deal, Toyota announced that it would raise pay for non-union auto workers. This is a clear example of how union wins can affect an entire sector – and how non-unionized companies need to respond to union wins in order to keep talent from jumping ship to another company that offers better pay and working conditions.
In a response to Biden’s remarks, Toyota said it wants to “foster positive morale,” and that “the decision to unionize is ultimately made by our team members.”
Tesla didn’t immediately boost pay like Toyota did. UAW has pushed to unionize Tesla in the past, but those efforts bore no fruit and have not been active for some time. But that was under previous leadership, so maybe Fain, elected in 2023, wants to make a new push to do the same.
“Workers at Tesla, Toyota, Honda, and others are not the enemy – they’re the UAW members of the future,” Fain said.
For its part, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in 2022 that he wouldn’t stop a union vote, but that’s a little hard to believe, given his past retaliation against union efforts. He has not made a statement regarding today’s commitment by Biden.
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