Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk on Thursday invited the United Auto Workers to organize the electric carmaker’s factory in Fremont.
The announcement comes as the billionaire entrepreneur criticized the Biden administration and Democrats for a proposal to give union-made, U.S.-built electric vehicles an additional $4,500 tax incentive. Tesla and foreign automakers do not have unions at their U.S. factories.
Organizing a Tesla plant would be a major victory for the UAW, which has largely failed to win the backing of workers at foreign-owned automakers’ or EV startups’ assembly plants, many of which are in the South. Tesla also has a plant in Austin.
In his tweet on Thursday, Musk said the real challenge was the negative unemployment in Bay Area, and not compensating people well would make them leave as they have many offers.
“I’d like hereby to invite UAW to hold a union vote at their convenience. Tesla will do nothing to stop them,” he said.
UAW did not have an immediate comment about Musk’s tweet, but analysts said his actions over the past year do not match the rhetoric.
Under federal law, at least 30% of workers at a plant or company must sign a petition showing they want to join a union for an election to be held. Typically, unions like the UAW will not seek an election unless they feel they have the necessary support to win the majority backing necessary.
Musk has also faced the ire of U.S. National Labor Relations Board, which last year ruled the company violated U.S. labor law and ordered Tesla to direct him to delete a 2018 tweet saying employees would lose their stock options if they formed a union.
Tesla subsequently appealed the NLRB ruling with the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals and that case is still pending.
The NLRB also directed Tesla to offer one former employee reinstatement as well as to rescind 2017 rules that prohibited distributing union literature in its parking lot on non-work time and rules that barred distributing union stickers, leaflets, and pamphlets without first obtaining permission.
Tesla has been also hit by a string of lawsuits on racial discrimination and sexual harassment by current and former workers. A California civil rights agency also filed a lawsuit accusing Tesla of failing for years to address widespread racist conduct at its Fremont assembly plant.
Tesla has said it does not tolerate discrimination and has taken steps to address complaints by workers.
President Biden has often praised the electric-vehicle efforts made by Detroit automakers General Motors and Ford, including during his State of the Union Speech on Tuesday, even though they sell fewer EVs than Tesla.
Last month, Biden, whom Musk earlier this year compared to a “damp sock puppet,” acknowledged Tesla’s leadership role in making EVs after Musk repeatedly complained about being ignored. Last fall, Musk said Biden’s EV policy appeared to be controlled by labor unions.