Tesla and Toyota

A Bold Move: UAW President Takes On Non-Unionized Automakers

In a groundbreaking development, United Auto Workers (UAW) President Shawn Fain has set his sights on expanding the union’s influence beyond the Detroit automakers and into the territory of non-unionized giants like Tesla, Toyota Motor, and other automakers operating in the United States. Fain, a strong advocate for workers’ rights, aims to leverage the record contracts recently secured after intense negotiations and labor strikes with General Motors, Ford Motor, and Chrysler-parent Stellantis to bolster the union’s organizing efforts across the nation.

Setting the Stage for Change

Fain, known for his outspoken leadership, expressed his vision during a recent discussion of Stellantis’ tentative agreement. He stated, “We’ve created the threat of a good example, and now we’re going to build on it. We just went on strike like we’ve never been on strike before and won a historic contract as a result. Now we’re going to organize like we’ve never organized before.” This resolute approach is poised to breathe new life into the UAW’s organizing endeavors.

A Crucial Move for UAW Membership

Fain’s strategy holds the potential to be a game-changer for the UAW. Over the years, the union’s membership has seen a significant decline, dwindling from its peak of 1.5 million members in 1979 to 383,000 at the start of this year. This move is a crucial step in revitalizing and expanding UAW’s membership base.

A History of Challenges

In the past, the UAW has faced challenges when trying to organize foreign-based automakers in the United States. Recent attempts to unionize plants at Volkswagen and Nissan Motor fell short of the required support. Even Tesla’s Fremont plant in California has proven resistant to previous efforts by the UAW. However, Fain’s determination knows no bounds.

Expanding Beyond the “Big Three”

Fain has expressed his commitment to expanding the UAW’s reach beyond the “Big Three” – Ford, GM, and Stellantis. By the time the union’s 4½-year contracts with these Detroit automakers expire in April 2028, Fain aims to extend the influence to the “Big Five or Big Six.” This ambitious goal reflects the magnitude of the ongoing negotiations and the potential impact on UAW members.

The Deals that Speak Volumes

The recent agreements with Detroit automakers carry significant weight. They include remarkable provisions such as 25% wage increases, raising top pay to over $40 per hour, reinstating cost-of-living adjustments, enhancing profit-sharing payments, and introducing substantial pay, healthcare, and workplace benefits. It is important to note that these contracts are yet to be ratified, but they are already generating significant interest from non-unionized automakers.

A Shift in Perspective

Fain’s approach challenges the notion that non-unionized automakers are adversaries. He firmly believes that workers at companies like Tesla, Toyota, Honda, and others are not the enemy but rather the future members of the UAW.

Toyota in the Crosshairs

Toyota has recently come into Fain’s crosshairs with its decision to increase wages at its U.S. factories. This move sees hourly manufacturing employees receiving substantial pay raises. Fain humorously referred to this as “the UAW bump,” suggesting that Toyota’s action is a response to the impending challenge posed by the UAW.

The Tesla Challenge


Organizing Tesla, with CEO Elon Musk at the helm, is another significant aspect of Fain’s plan. Despite historical resistance to unionization, Fain remains undeterred. He firmly believes that they can overcome any obstacles and that it ultimately comes down to the workers deciding whether they want their fair share.

Historical Clashes with Tesla

Historically, Tesla has had clashes with union proponents. In the past, Tesla was reported to monitor employees’ social media activities and faced allegations of violating federal labor laws. The ongoing tension between the company and union activists presents an intriguing challenge.

The Road Ahead

The UAW, under the leadership of Shawn Fain, is on a path of transformation and expansion. As they push forward, their efforts to organize non-unionized automakers and challenge the status quo promise to shape the future of labor relations in the U.S. The union’s journey towards broader representation and workers’ rights is a story worth watching.