A labor dispute led hundreds of workers to walk off the job Monday at Tesla Motors’ Gigafactory construction site, in protest of the company hiring out-of-state contractors at a lower rate.
“There have been Nevada construction workers on the job who have been displaced by these contractors and workers from out of state,” said Todd Koch, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada. “Workers on this site — non-union and union alike — have watched this happen over time, and they’re saying, ‘Are we next?'”
Union and non-union plumbers, carpenters, electricians and more totaling about 350 left the site, reported the Associated Press, and 100 picketed near the $5 billion battery factory’s main gate. An average of 894 workers occupy the site weekly, according to a December report by Tesla.
“Their issue is not with how Tesla treats its workers,” said a spokesperson. “Their issue is that of the many third party contractors that are involved in the construction of the Gigafactory, many are union but the one at issue is not.”
Tesla, in exchange for about $1 billion in tax breaks, is required to maintain a worker ration of at least 50 percent Nevadans, unless they encounter a shortage of skilled labor. Koch and his union, however, attempted to bump the requirement up to 100 percent.
Although the automaker maintains that they are exceeding the 50 percent requirement, union officials claim that New Mexico-based Brycon Corp. is having an increased presence on the job site.
A Tesla spokesperson said that the union is “claiming that this contractor is somehow favoring out of state workers. In reality, more than 50 percent of the workers used by this contractor and more than 75 percent of the entire Gigafactory workforce are Nevada residents, demonstrating the project’s strong commitment to Nevada.”
In a December audit, the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development found that the site employed 68 percent Nevadan workers.
According to Fortune, the walk-off is just the beginning of the dispute. “We’re considering our options,” said Koch. “But I can say, this is just the opening salvo and we’re not going to give up. Tesla hasn’t heard the last from us.”
Union officials are still considering whether to continue the protest into Tuesday or if they will file a complaint with the U.S. Labor Department.
Do you think workers are right to be concerned over out-of-state workers? Will the disagreement take weeks or months to resolve, or could it be settled within the week?
Comment below or tweet @KatieeMohr.