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As The IBEW & USW Combine Forces To Organize Workers At Buffalo’s Tesla Plant, General Motors CEO Says Tesla CEO Elon Musk ‘Doesn't Want’ Unionized Workers

Published Monday, January 14, 2019
by Nathan Bomey & Jamie LaReau/USA Today
As The IBEW & USW Combine Forces To Organize Workers At Buffalo’s Tesla Plant, General Motors CEO Says Tesla CEO Elon Musk ‘Doesn't Want’ Unionized Workers

(DETROIT, MICHIGAN) - General Motors CEO Mary Barra dismissed the possibility that Elon Musk's Tesla could acquire one of GM's soon-to-be-idled U.S. factories.

Barra acknowledged talk about the prospect of Tesla acquiring GM's plant in Detroit or its plant in Lordstown, Ohio - both of which are set to close soon unless they are assigned new vehicles to manufacture.  “There have been conversations in the past,” Barra said at a presentation for investors and analysts last week. “But Tesla’s not interested in our workforce represented by the UAW (United Auto Workers), so really it’s a moot point.”

The United Auto Workers (UAW) Union represents GM's Hourly Workers in the U.S.

Tesla CEO Musk recently expressed interest in his company potentially purchasing one of the GM factories.  That's essentially what Tesla did with its factory in Fremont, California, which was formerly a joint venture between GM and Toyota.  But the Fremont factory is not Unionized, despite the UAW's attempts to do so.  And Musk has repeatedly criticized the Union, saying it helped lead to GM's downfall and arguing that his Workers are safe and well-paid.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the United Steelworkers (USW) have kicked off a joint campaign to Unionize Non-Union Employees working in Tesla’s Buffalo Plant (Read WNYLaborToday.com’s December 13th Labor News Report, Headlined: The USW & IBEW Launch Joint Organizing Drive At Tesla’s Buffalo Solar Factory After Production & Maintenance Employees Reached Out To The USW About Unionization, at www.wnylabortoday.com/news/2018/12/13/buffalo-and-western-new-york-labor-news/the-usw-ibew-launch-joint-organizing-drive-at-tesla-s-buffalo-solar-factory-after-production-maintenance-employees-reached-out-to-the-usw-about-unionization/).

Barra's comment came as GM reported that its decision to likely close the plants in Ohio and Michigan will contribute to its increased profitability.  Those moves came after GM decided to discontinue several vehicles, including the Chevrolet Cruze, Chevy Impala and Chevy Volt.

The company surprised Wall Street on late last week by upping its estimated 2019 profits, despite concerns about the global economy and the Chinese vehicle market.  GM shares rose 8.9% to $37.80 early Friday (January 11th) afternoon before closing at $37.18. 

The factory cuts, as well as thousands of buyouts and layoffs of White Collar Workers, will add up to $2.5 billion to GM's annual cost savings in 2019.  In all, about 6,500 hourly jobs are in danger, though Barra said GM has a 2,700 openings in other plants, including: Flint, Michigan; Spring Hill, Tennessee; and Arlington, Texas, where affected Workers could transfer.  She said about 1,500 Hourly Workers have expressed interest in those openings and seven hundred have been placed in jobs and are "en route." 

The job cuts were necessary, Barra said: "Doing something that's proactive when you have a strong Labor Market is important.”  She said GM will continue to "have a dialogue" with the UAW and Unifor, Canada's Union, to "take care of our team members" and GM will be transparent in its future business plans.

GM has faced continued push-back against the cuts in Canada and the United States.  Michigan and Ohio lawmakers have criticized the moves and cited the government's bankruptcy bailout of GM.

To Directly Access This Labor News Story, Go To: www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2019/01/11/gm-tesla-mary-barra-elon-musk/2548799002/

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