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Tesla Factory Workers Pushing For a Union Send Letter of Requests To Company's Board Members (phys.org) 317

One of the many challenges facing Tesla right now is the escalating worker complaints about pay and safety. At its California factory, a move to unionize is gaining steam. Workers recently sent a letter to Tesla's independent board members requesting access to the automaker's safety plan as well as clarity on compensation and a promise of no retaliation against employees as they try to form a union. From a report via Phys.Org: The United Auto Workers is in the process of trying to unionize the 10,000 Tesla workers at the Fremont plant, alleging the company has a poor safety record -- a charge it vehemently denies. "We're tired of suffering preventable injury after preventable injury. It impacts morale, it slows down production and it's of course traumatizing," said Michael Catura, a Tesla production worker who signed the letter. Starting pay for production associates in the Fremont facility is $18 an hour, far below the national average for auto workers of $25.58 and even farther below the living wage in Alameda County, California, where the average wage is $28.10, according to the letter sent by workers. In addition, the letter said the paths to promotion are not clear. "Many of us have worked for years with the vague promise of a raise, with nothing to show for it," said Richard Ortiz, who works in the paint shop. "We have no idea what the criteria is to move forward, and no idea of what defines success. We've raised these issues repeatedly, and have gotten no response," he added.
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Tesla Factory Workers Pushing For a Union Send Letter of Requests To Company's Board Members

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  • UAW again (Score:5, Informative)

    by J. T. MacLeod ( 111094 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2017 @07:56PM (#54930297)

    I think that people should be free to unionize if they like, but I can't help but feel like UAW has grown hungry and needs fresh prey.

    UAW has been a millstone around the neck of Detroit auto workers, while auto workers outside of Detroit are in need of protection.

    Many of the people objecting aren't against unionizing, they're just against UAW. Why doesn't anyone attempt to unionize WITHOUT UAW?

    • Re:UAW again (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 02, 2017 @11:10PM (#54931101)

      I'm a UAW member. In my experience, they are responsive, helpful, and quite valuable. Having serious lawyers around when your (large) employer inevitably decides to violate your contract has been great. The dues are small, the management democratic, and the primary interest in the well-being of employees. I don't get the hate here.

      In terms of why people usually form unions as local within larger organizations, it's basically the same reason that anyone forms a union in the first place: you want to be part of a large, well-financed organization that can afford big lawyers and has institutional expertise in dealing with other large, well-financed organizations (companies). The whole point of unionization is to have the same kind of scale, and thus bargaining power, on both sides of the table. If you try to make a totally independent fresh union of a few employees to negotiate with some giant company like GM, they will wipe the floor with you. A little less than if it were just you, of course, but you still aren't at parity.

    • Re:UAW again (Score:4, Interesting)

      by houghi ( 78078 ) on Thursday August 03, 2017 @07:57AM (#54932481)

      I have that in Belgium. But first understand that there is a fundamental difference in Unions in the US and in Europe.
      In the US it is more a guild than a Union. You have profession X, you join Union Y.

      In Belgium these exist as well, but they are the smaller unions. Most you just join. There are a few major ones. You can join any of them and no company will ask if you are a Union member or not, because they do not care if you are. I do not even know if the people I work with are in a union or not.

      When a company is larger than 50, there need to be a workers representative from the unions. That means that basically every company is unionized.

      As long as you are 18 (I think) you can join a union. You do not even have to have a job. The reason I joined is because they do a lot for you.

      First time I lost my job, it took 9 months to get my unemployment benefits. I got it in one big bunch. Next time I got fired, I joined a Union on that very day and they took all the paperwork out of my hands and I got paid immediatly.

      One company I worked for even paid me back the fee I paid to the Union. So in effect the company paid the Union.

      The thing is that Europe are a lot of countries, so you do not have one huge overlapping Union. To me that could be a danger in the US that they would become TOO powerfull. In Belgium I like it as they even the power difference between a single person and a company.
      No, obviously it isn't perfect, but it is WAY better than having no union.

  • by WolfgangVL ( 3494585 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2017 @08:04PM (#54930337)

    I keep seeing the same story replayed over and over the last few weeks.

    Poor workers paid unfair wages at giant tech companies while living in the highest cost of living areas of the country.

    They would be forced to pay better wages if you guys stopped taking the jobs at low pay!

    You being employed means you have a skill. Leave CA or NY or WA, or suck it up and get papered for the better jobs and crushing debt.

    It sucks. I don't want to leave home anymore than you do, but the companies don't owe you better wages *because*, anymore than you owe more on your grocery bill *because*

    Form your union, demand your raises, and drive the hell on.... but keep in mind that you don't HAVE to be spending 75% of your take-home on rent (or living out of your S10 and showering at the Y) just to have a tech job.

    • Those "highest cost of living areas" also have the most job opportunities and things like good school systems. Sure you can live very cheaply in Akron, Ohio but good luck finding a good job there
    • Form your union, demand your raises, and drive the hell on.... but keep in mind that you don't HAVE to be spending 75% of your take-home on rent (or living out of your S10 and showering at the Y) just to have a tech job.

      Where are the majority of the tech jobs? Oh yeah, in places with high costs of living. Clearly some people can follow your advice, because there are some jobs in places with lower costs of living. And if "everyone" were to pack up and move someplace cheaper, then some tech jobs would probably start to appear there, because there was talent there. But businesses tend to site themselves in specific locations for specific reasons. They're either near a physical resource, near another business they're working w

  • I was vaguely sympathetic until I read that.

  • Comparing the starting pay at Tesla to the national average for auto workers doesn't seem very fair.
  • by Puls4r ( 724907 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2017 @08:50PM (#54930563)
    So is this going to be like other locations, where the companies said "yeah, go ahead and vote". The vote failed - so the union had another. And another. Then tried to publish all the individual votes that were suppose to be secret so they could force and intimidate folks? Then that failed. So they sued. And that failed. So they had another vote. Ad Nauseum. The UAW isn't a millstone. It's a cancer. They are a gateway to fraud, kickbacks, nepotism, favoritism, and popularism.
  • by SlaveToTheGrind ( 546262 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2017 @08:53PM (#54930577)

    The minimum wage activists tell us that anything below $15/hr is not a "living wage."

    Now we learn that people who already make a good deal more than that still declare it to be far below a "living wage."

    This cycle quickly gets old to those of us who choose to live within our means rather than to constantly whine and try to bully our way into a higher income.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo&world3,net> on Thursday August 03, 2017 @06:45AM (#54932121) Homepage Journal

      There is nothing contradictory about those statements.

      The living wage varies from place to place, because it costs more to live in some places. It is the amount someone needs to earn to live comfortably while supporting a modest family in a modest home with healthcare, a pension and some savings for emergencies.

      If $15/hr is not a living wage, that doesn't mean that $15.01 is. There is nothing contradictory about what Tesla pays also not being adequate to meet the conditions above.

      Tesla claims that its pay is good because it includes valuable stock. Problem is, you can't by groceries or pay the rent with stock, you have to wait until it matures and then sell it. As we should all know, having been through the dot-com boom, stock is not a substitute for wages.

      • As we should all know, having been through the dot-com boom, stock is not a substitute for wages.

        Not only that, but when a corporation has a bunch of stock in something they might borrow against it, but when a person has a handful of unvested stock in something, nobody is likely to give them a loan on it. So it's really not a substitute for anything at all.

      • And I love how every single one of your past dozen or so comments was immediately modded up (and how, equally mysteriously, my reply was immediately modded down). The fact that you're resorting to sock puppet accounts to amplify your voice just further proves you don't have anything cogent to say.

  • by Neuronwelder ( 990842 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2017 @09:18PM (#54930659)
    I see a lot of apathy for Unions. Very sad. They gave you: Weekends off, eight hour work day, Holidays off. And a safer workplace. People died in the fight to start unions for you. If you like working 60 hours a week on a regular basis; keep on disliking unions.. Source: https://www.thoughtco.com/1886... [thoughtco.com]
    • by drnb ( 2434720 ) on Wednesday August 02, 2017 @10:39PM (#54931003)

      I see a lot of apathy for Unions. Very sad. They gave you: Weekends off, eight hour work day, Holidays off.

      No, no, and no. Unions got you payed overtime for such things. You can still be expected to work on a weekend, on a holiday or more than 8 hours. Pre-union it might be part of your daily/weekly salary, you might not even be getting an hourly rate, not a penny extra. Post-union you got 1.5 to 2 times your normal hourly rate, in general.

      And a safer workplace. People died in the fight to start unions for you. If you like working 60 hours a week on a regular basis; keep on disliking unions.

      You got that half-right. As my 40-year IBEW member grandfather explained that was all true and unions were a godsend back in those early decades. However he said that in the 1960s-70s timeframe they became a useless bureaucracy working to perpetuate their own existence and the salaries and perks of the union staff/leadership, not the members. That all the important stuff (those fights you refer to) was not contract, but law. And that now the union fights over BS stuff and rarely does anything to help a worker against management. He said management and union had this working symbiotic relationship perpetuating their interests, neither of them thinking much about the workers interests. In summary, he said the unions were once important and greatly needed, but now they are just a racket doing little beyond skimming some percentage of the money, not unlike the mob.

      A friend was an assistant manager at a small local manufacturer back in the 1990s. The owner was once a worker in a larger plant, went out on his own, grew a business. He was a pretty good boss, his shop was clean and safe and well equipped. When things were going really well and profits way up, he gave bonuses to everyone. Something comes up, someone needs the flexibility to take some time off without using vacation or sick time, sure we'll juggle some hours around. He was genuinely concerned about his workers and treated them like extended family. Then a union organizer came around with lots of promises. The employees voted in favor of unionizing, they didn't have any grievances but like the idea of more money in their pocket. When no more bonuses showed up, they asked why not. The reply, its not part of the union contract. When there was less scheduling flexibility ... its not part of the union contract. When they said they are taking home less money ... I warned you not to trust the union organizer. The workers were now eagerly looking forward to the passage of two years (?) so they could vote to leave the union. But it never got there, the owner decided to retire, sold the company to a larger company. About a year later they shut it down and moved it offshore.

      Voting to unionize is not necessarily some panacea. In the distant past it might have been, but not any more.

      • Be careful what you take in your mind. They are tying to convince you that Unions are the enemy and Unions must go. You took part of the bait. I'm glad you were lucky and had your grandfather to talk to you. You have no idea of how hard Washington and Corporations want to kill unions. That way you will have absolutely no defence against what they pay you, treat you, or anything they want to do to you. For instance: Take having "The right to work.in your State. The true statement is "The right to work for
        • by drnb ( 2434720 ) on Thursday August 03, 2017 @10:44AM (#54933611)

          Be careful what you take in your mind. They are tying to convince you that Unions are the enemy and Unions must go. You took part of the bait. I'm glad you were lucky and had your grandfather to talk to you.

          The theory of unions is just fine. The history of unions is important, their achievements great. However do not confuse these things with the state of unions *today*. Today many unions are corrupt and work for the interests of the union itself, not for the workers they represent. Today many do not uphold the standards of the industry, the craft, making sure members live up to the standards of quality of the industry. Do not confuse the unions of the "golden era" with those of today. They have little in common. Many of the rights and benefits workers receive today are due to law, not union membership or contract. Yes, laws brought about by the unions of that "golden era", but law never the less.

          You have no idea of how hard Washington and Corporations want to kill unions. That way you will have absolutely no defence against what they pay you, treat you, or anything they want to do to you.

          Other than the law of the land?

          For instance: Take having "The right to work.in your State. The true statement is "The right to work for less pay". People find out about it later..much too late. What you said about Unions in the 70's is true. They got too greedy and made a lot of idiot mistakes. (So do politicians to this day). I think Unions realized their mistakes and have changed for the better. But today you can be part of a Union and not pay dues! This is their way of crippling Unions.

          The first hand accounts I've heard from the late 1990s show little difference from the 1970s.

          The United States Post Office is one of the biggest Unions to exist. Why do you think they wanted them to pay retirement benefits 75 years into the future?? They want to kill the post office and it's Union. They are also under the illusion that privatizing the post office will bring a profit to them. It will in the city, but be a huge loss in the rural areas.

          Government employee unions are a separate topic, and a trouble idea to begin with.

          "“It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.”
          That wasn’t Newt Gingrich, or Ron Paul, or Ronald Reagan talking. That was George Meany -- the former president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O -- in 1955. Government unions are unremarkable today, but the labor movement once thought the idea absurd."
          "The founders of the labor movement viewed unions as a vehicle to get workers more of the profits they help create. Government workers, however, don’t generate profits. They merely negotiate for more tax money. When government unions strike, they strike against taxpayers. F.D.R. considered this “unthinkable and intolerable.”"
          https://www.nytimes.com/roomfo... [nytimes.com]

          ""All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service," he wrote. "It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management." Roosevelt didn’t stop there. "The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations," he wrote. When Walker claimed FDR said "the government is the people," he had Roosevelt’s next line in mind. "The employer," Roosevelt’s letter added, "is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, pro

    • Unions helped somewhat with shifting employment in those directions, but increasing competition between firms for workers and increasing worker mobility played a large role in making those changes too -- and these, not unions, are the reason the benefits persisted.

      From the early Industrial Revolution until the New Deal, labor monopsonies (only one purchaser of labor) were common. Barriers to changing employers were high in the day of "company towns," horse and buggy travel, limited access to education, etc.

      • Anti-Trust law (Crippled so much that it's the same thing as being dead.) I have no idea where you got that Anti-Trust has any power left. The Glass-Steagle law is dead. Labour Monopolies are all but gone. Unions are down to 8% from 10%. When Unions were doing ok; even if you weren't in a Union, you still indirectly profited from Unions paying workers more because they had to compete with the Union pay. But it all gone. "The right to work" (for less) will be implemented on you and you will feel the financia
    • They gave you: Weekends off, eight hour work day, Holidays off. And a safer workplace.

      See, now, take this pro-union propaganda with a grain of salt. There were a lots of factors that led to a shorter American work week, and while unions were in fact one force, another major factor was that labor market conditions were much tighter. Manufacturing was expanding. Immigration was falling. Technological changes improved worker productivity. There were gross population shifts from rural areas to urban areas. The

    • eight hour work day

      Ford was one of the first companies to switch to an eight-hour work day, way back in 1914. They didn't become unionized until 1941.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

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