UAW President Fain says Tesla workers are 'scraping to get by'

UAW President Fain says Tesla workers are 'scraping to get by'

UAW President Shawn Fain marches with UAW members through downtown Detroit on September 15, 2023.
Bill Pugliano/Getty

The United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain defended worker demands for a 40% pay increase. 
He appeared on CBS on Sunday saying a pay rise won’t stop automakers from making “billions in profits.”
He also criticized Tesla CEO Elon Musk, calling him “greedy.”

The United Auto Workers union boss defended worker demands for higher wages by slamming “greedy people like Elon Musk” for what he called “pitiful” pay at Tesla. 

Shawn Fain, president of the United Auto Workers union — which represents workers at the Detroit 3 automakers Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis — appeared on CBS’ Face the Nation program on Sunday to defend the union’s proposals for a 40% pay rise, shorter work weeks, and cost of living adjustments. 

The union went on strike just after midnight on September 15 after failing to reach an agreement with the companies before its deadline. 

A Ford statement said it rejected the proposals because it “would more than double Ford’s current UAW-related labor costs, which are already significantly higher than the labor costs of Tesla, Toyota, and other foreign-owned automakers in the United States that utilize non-union-represented labor.” 

Fain responded to the criticism by claiming that increasing wages significantly shouldn’t necessarily lead to an increase in the cost of cars.

“They could double our wages and not raise the price of the vehicles and still make billions in profits. It’s a choice. And the fact that they want to compare it to how pitiful Tesla pays their workers and other companies pay their workers, that’s what this whole argument’s about,” Fain said on the program.

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“Most of these workers in those companies are scraping to get by so that greedy CEOs and greedy people like Elon Musk can build more rocket ships and shoot their self into outer space. And that’s unacceptable.” 

He added: “Workers in this country have got to decide if they want a better life for themselves, instead of scraping to get by paycheck to paycheck, while everybody else walks away with the loot.” 

Musk chimed in on the ongoing negotiations between the Detroit 3 automakers and the UAW.

“We pay more than the UAW btw, but performance expectations are also higher,” he wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Quite a few of our factory techs who work on the line have become millionaires over the years from company stock grants,” he added. 

Contrary to the Tesla CEO’s claims, analysts found that Tesla spends about $45 an hour on labor costs but Ford, GM, and Stellantis are spending roughly $20 more at about $66 an hour on their labor, per previous Insider reporting. 

If the UAW wins on its demands for higher pay, the Detroit 3’s hourly labor costs could more than double to $136 an hour, according to Wells Fargo estimates.