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UAW president criticizes Tesla: “Most of these workers in those companies are scraping to get by”

Key Points

  • 😠 UAW President criticizes Tesla for not using unionized labor during ongoing strikes at other automakers.
  • 🏭 Tesla’s plants continue to operate normally despite the UAW strike, leading analysts to predict Tesla as the winner in the labor talks.
  • 💰 UAW President argues that labor costs represent only about 5% of a vehicle’s price and could be increased without significantly affecting vehicle prices.
  • 💸 UAW President suggests that Tesla pays its workers poorly, while CEOs like Elon Musk focus on space exploration.
  • 🚗 Rep. Debbie Dingell points out that Tesla has a significant pay discrepancy among its employees and that many people, including executives, cannot afford Tesla vehicles.
  • 📊 Data shows that Tesla’s most affordable vehicles, like the Model 3 and Model Y, are priced competitively, especially with federal tax credits for eligible buyers.

During a recent broadcast of CBS’ Face the Nation, United Auto Workers (UAW) President Shawn Fain and Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan discussed the ongoing strike affecting Ford, General Motors (GM), and Stellantis. Fain and Dingell referenced Tesla during the broadcast, and the UAW president expressed his displeasure at CEO Elon Musk. 

Tesla does not use unionized labor, so even amidst the UAW’s ongoing strike, the EV maker’s plants are operating normally. Analysts have noted that Tesla would become the big winner in the UAW’s labor talks. Ford, for its part, noted that the UAW’s demands would more than double its labor costs, which are already higher than Tesla, Toyota, and other automakers that don’t use union labor. 

In response to these sentiments, Fain stated that labor costs are only a very small part of a vehicle’s price. “First off, labor costs are about 5 percent of the cost of the vehicle. They could double our wages and not raise the price of the vehicles and still make billions in profits. It’s a choice. And the fact that they want to compare it to how — how pitiful Tesla pays their workers and other companies pay their workers, that’s what this whole argument’s about,” he said. 

“Most of these workers in those companies are scraping to get by so that greedy CEOs and greedy people like Elon Musk can build more rocket ships and shoot theirself in outer space. And that’s unacceptable,” Fain said

Rep. Debbie Dingell, for her part, argued that Tesla has a huge discrepancy in what the company is paying its employees. Dingell also claimed that Teslas are still out of reach for most people in the country, including a lot of executives.

“Tesla does have a huge discrepancy in what they’re paying their employees. And most people in this country can’t afford a Tesla. Even a lot of executives can’t afford to buy a Tesla,” the representative said. 

For context, data from Kelley Blue Book puts the average cost of a new car at $48,008 as of March 2023. Tesla’s most affordable vehicle, the Model 3 sedan, starts at $40,240 before incentives, which is lower than the US average. The Model Y, Tesla’s best-selling car and a crossover, starts at $50,490 before incentives, which is pretty close to the US average. Both the Model 3 and Model Y also qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit for eligible buyers, making them even more affordable.

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