Tesla employees at Giga New York have notified CEO Elon Musk of their intention to unionize. If they are able to get support from the broader employee base in Buffalo it would be the first union at any Tesla factory.
The employees leading the charge for unionization work in Tesla’s Autopilot data labelling team, a team which has grown significantly at Giga New York over the last year. According to the email sent to Musk the workers are seeking higher pay and increased job security, and a reduction in pressure to produce results in unrealistic timeframes.
“Unionizing will further accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy because it will give us a voice in our workplace and in the goals we set for ourselves to accomplish,” the letter said.
One member of the organizing committee, Al Cello, said employees are “tired of being treated like robots.” Tesla reportedly monitors keystrokes to track their progress and activity through the day. Such pressure even leads to employees not taking bathroom breaks, other employees explained to Bloomberg.
Giga New York is currently home to more than 800 Autopilot data labelers, which has a starting pay of around $19 per hour. The group is also seeking to unionize the approximately 1,000 manufacturing employees at the factory.
In addition to higher pay and increased job security, employees are also seeking less scrutiny of the rate of their production output, and a greater focus on the quality. “We have such a rush to get things done that I don’t know if it’s actually being well thought out. It’s just, ‘Let’s get this out as fast as we can,” Celli said.
The unionization efforts are being organized with help from Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. According to Bloomberg the group has successfully unionized hundreds of Starbucks locations across the US over the past year.
Tesla has faced unionization efforts before at their Fremont factory in California with the help of the United Auto Workers (UAW), but so far none have been successful.
National Labor Relations Board rules Tesla must allow pro-union insignia on factory uniforms