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Tesla employees launch organizing drive with help of nationwide unions

Posted at 8:18 AM, Dec 13, 2018

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Unions from across the nation are supporting Tesla employees at the company's South Buffalo site.

The United Steelworkers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the CWA, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, the Public Employees Federation, the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York and the Coalition of Economic Justice are partnering together to help Tesla employees create a union. Reverend Kirk Laubenstein of the Coalition of Economic Justice says this isn't to show the company in a bad light, instead it's to help the company succeed.

"Family sustaining jobs, especially when there's a huge $750 million investment from us, the taxpayers, are really crucial. Having a union allows people to be able to do that," says Laubenstein. "They say okay, I need to change my life, my life needs to be better. I shouldn't have to choose between paying rent or putting food on the table. There was a promise when this was first built, there would be $65,000 salaries but we're not there. Do the math. $15.50 an hour isn't that."

Union workers will be handing out leaflets to employees as they leave and arrive for their shifts. The employees are not encouraged to hold out working until an agreement is reached, because according to Laubenstein, workers still want Tesla to function as normal.

"There just needs to be a partnership between the company and the employees so we both succeed together," says Laubenstein. Employees are asking for better pay, benefits and safe working conditions.

Environmental groups, locally and nationally are supporting Tesla employees because they want to help renewable companies succeed, says Rebecca Newberry, Executive Director of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York. Newberry says it's important for companies pushing for energy transitions to be encouraged in order to create sustainability. "It was really a natural partnership for us, to support family sustaining jobs in an important industry," says Newberry.

The Tesla factory was part of Governor Andrew Cuomo's Buffalo Billion investment. His office released this statement:

We always support the rights of working men and women to organize.
Spokesman, Governor Andrew Cuomo

A Tesla spokesperson provided the following statement:

“Tesla greatly values its employees and the direct relationship it has with them at our Buffalo facility. We offer wages and benefits that exceed those of other comparable manufacturing jobs in the region, and we recently increased our base pay even further. In addition, unlike other manufacturers, every single employee is an owner of Tesla, as everyone receives stock upon hire and for good performance, which results in significantly more compensation beyond our already high wages. Other factories are shutting down in the US and we still have a long way to go to make Gigafactory 2 financially sustainable. Nevertheless, we continue to do everything we can to keep exceeding our commitments to jobs and business in Buffalo. Today's demonstration consisted almost entirely of groups outside of Tesla, not Tesla employees. And ultimately, it’s up to our employees to decide if they want to be unionized. While we will never please everyone outside of Tesla, we have an unwavering commitment to providing a great workplace for our employees. That’s what matters."
Tesla Spokesperson

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