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Biden Refuses to Invite Tesla to White House

Due to the company's union-busting they were not invited to an important EV meeting

Brian Young's picture
Aug 09, 2021

Last week, President Joe Biden invited representatives from the largest American automakers to the White House for the signing of an Executive Order (EO) setting a goal of having 50% of new cars sold in the United States be electric by 2030. The order also includes goals of improving charging infrastructure in the United States, spurring domestic manufacturing and union jobs in the sector, and fueling innovation in cleantech.

While the “big three” automakers of Ford, General Motors and Chrysler (now known as Stellantis) attended the meeting, one major player in the domestic electric vehicle (EV) market, Tesla, was absent. While Tesla is currently the global leader in the manufacturing of zero-emission vehicles, they have been extremely anti-union. As UCOMM Blog previously reported, Tesla was found guilty of union-busting in March.

According to White House Press Secretary Jenn Psaki, it would seem that Tesla’s decision to keep unions out of their workplace was the reason that they were not invited to the meeting.

"Well, we, of course, welcome the efforts of all automakers who recognize the potential of an electric vehicle future and support efforts that will help reach the president's goal. And certainly, Tesla is one of those companies," Psaki said. "Today, it's the three largest employers of the United Auto Workers, and the UAW president who will stand with President Biden as he announces his ambitious new target, but I would not expect this is the last time we talk about clean cars, the move toward electric vehicles, and we look forward to having a range of partners in that effort."

When she was later asked if they omitted Tesla from the event because they are not union, Psaki said “Well, these are the three largest employers of the United Auto Workers, so I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.”

In the White House’s statement on the EO they said that the goal of the order is that “once-in-a-generation investments will position America to win the future of transportation and manufacturing and create good-paying, union jobs, dramatically expand American manufacturing, make electric vehicles more affordable for families, and export our electric vehicles around the world.”

Biden hopes that with this EO, he will be able to jumpstart the U.S. EV industry as other countries like China are quickly catching up. Biden has been a big proponent of electric vehicles, including debuting the new Ford Lighting and including a plan for a national charging network in his infrastructure bill. At the State of the Union, Biden called out the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) saying “The American Jobs Plan will put engineers and construction workers to work building more energy-efficient buildings and homes. Electrical workers, IBEW members, installing 500,000 charging stations along our highways so we can own the electric car market," he said. "For too long we've failed to use the most important word when it comes to meeting the climate crisis: Jobs. Jobs. Jobs."

In a statement from the UAW, the union said that they support a plan to build these vehicles domestically and an investment that allows US automakers to catch up with their European and Asian competitors. “We must be ambitious not just about retaining good union jobs, but growing them, and about expanding U.S. manufacturing of electric vehicles, from parts to assembly. It is incumbent that these future jobs will be good-paying American union scale wage and benefit jobs that protect salaries and our critical health and safety standards,” the union said. “The members of the UAW, current and future, are ready to build these electric cars and trucks and the batteries that go in them. Our members are America’s secret weapon in winning this global race. That is why today we stand with the President and support his ambition not just to grow electric vehicles but also our capacity to produce them domestically with good wages and benefits and the right to bargain and urge Congress to seize this opportunity for the sake of working people and our country’s future.

While union automakers were meeting with Biden, Tesla is facing more worker issues. This time it’s a huge payout to Melvin Berry, who sued the company claiming racial discrimination. Berry sued Tesla saying that the company failed to stop a supervisor from allegedly hurling racial slurs at him. An arbitrator has ruled that Tesla must pay Berry $1.02 million in damages. Berry began working for Tesla in 2015 as a materials handler but left two years later after a supervisor who was half his age frequently called him the N-word. When Barry reported the racial harassment, he claimed the supervisor retaliated by making his already laborious duties even more strenuous.

This isn’t the first time Tesla has faced claims of racial harassment with workers referring to the factories as “the Plantation” and the workers say they are often referred to as “cotton pickers.” “I was directly called N-word and n—-a approximately 100 times at the Fremont factory. I heard the terms N-word and n—-a used over 100 times by co-workers, and by my lead Auggie, in the Tesla factory,” claimed former Fremont factory worker Aaron Craven in a sworn statement that was part of a 2017 suit against the company. According to the Atlanta Black Star, since 2018 nearly 200 employees have requested the right to sue Tesla for racial discrimination.

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