UAW launches push to organize at Tesla and other non-union car makers

Less than two weeks after ratifying new contracts with Detroit automakers, the United Auto Workers union announced plans on Wednesday to try to organize workers simultaneously at more than a dozen non-union auto factories.

The UAW says the drive will cover nearly 150,000 workers at factories largely in the south, where the union has had little success in recruiting new members.

The drive will target US plants run by Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Subaru, Mazda, Volkswagen, Mercedes, BMW and Volvo. Also on the union’s list are US factories run by the electric vehicle sales leader Tesla, as well as startups Rivian and Lucid.

“You don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck,” the union’s president, Shawn Fain, said in a statement appealing to non-union workers. “You don’t have to worry about how you’re going to pay your rent or feed your family while the company makes billions. A better life is out there.”

The union said that Toyota’s 7,800-worker assembly complex in Georgetown, Kentucky, was among factories with the strongest interest in the union. A Toyota spokesman declined to comment.

The organizing drive comes after a six-week series of strikes at factories run by Ford, General Motors and the Jeep maker Stellantis that ended with new contracts. Under the contracts, top assembly plant worker pay will rise 33% by the time the deals expire in April of 2028. The new contracts also ended some lower tiers of wages, gave raises to temporary workers and shortened the time it takes for full-time workers to get to the top of the pay scale.

At the end of the contract top-scale assembly workers will make about $42 per hour and receive annual profit-sharing checks.

Shortly after the contracts were signed, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Subaru and Hyundai increased wages at US factories in a move the union said was aimed at thwarting UAW organizing efforts. Many of the companies also reduced the number of years it will take for workers to reach the top of their pay scales.