Tesla employees at Gigafactory New York, located in Buffalo, say they are “tired of being treated like robots,” and they informed CEO Elon Musk that they seek to unionize.
It’s not the first time the automaker has faced unionization efforts, but they have mostly been focused at Tesla’s car factories, and in the US, specifically at Fremont Factory in California.
The powerful Union of Auto Workers (UAW) has launched over the years several unsuccessful efforts to unionize what is now the most productive car factory in the US.
CEO Elon Musk has pushed back hard against those efforts, and he was found to have gone too far by the National Labor Relations Board, which ordered Musk to delete a tweet in which he suggested that if Tesla employees unionized they would lose their stock options.
Regardless, unionization efforts at Tesla factories haven’t gone far over the years.
Now we have learned of a new unionization effort at Tesla, but it’s not at a car factory.
Workers at Gigafactory New York, where now almost a thousand workers perform data annotation for Tesla’s Autopilot and self-driving efforts, announced their intent to unionize (via Bloomberg):
The employees, who label data for Tesla’s Autopilot technology at the company’s plant in Buffalo, New York, sent an email to Musk early Tuesday with their intent to unionize. Employees say they’re seeking better pay and job security alongside a reduction in production pressures that they say have been harmful to their health.
One of the main problems appears to be the tracking of employees at work. They claim that Tesla monitors keystrokes and time per task – leading to employees avoiding things like bathroom breaks in order not to affect their performance.
The Tesla employees are being organized with the help of the Service Employees International Union affiliate Workers United, which is known for having unionized workers at hundreds of Starbucks stores.
Al Celli, a member of the union’s organizing committee, said about the Tesla workers at Giga New York:
“People are tired of being treated like robots.”
“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.’”
The data labelers also want higher pay and job security. They have a $19-an-hour starting pay.
Tesla has been increasingly looking to automate Autopilot data labeling.
While the organizers are starting with the data labelers, they say that they plan to also include about 1,000 manufacturing employees at the factory. Tesla produces Supercharger stations at the factory.