In targeting Tesla, the United Steelworkers considers the former steel plant where Tesla is currently housed as union “sacred ground.”
BUFFALO, NY—More than 35-years ago, the Republic Steel Corporation closed its Buffalo plant, announcing that is would never reopen the plant.
As a “brownfield” site, the factory land where thousands of unionized steel workers once worked sat dormant for years.
Then, in 2013, Andrew Cuomo, New York’s Democrat governor announced the “Buffalo Billion” plans to revitalize the area with tax incentives and government grants in order to attract solar panel makers to locate their manufacturing there.
Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” attracted Elon Musk’s Tesla to the area and, in 2014, Telsa’s “Gigafactory 2” was announced.
“Tesla made the commitment in exchange for the state spending $750 million to build and equip the plant,” the Buffalo News reported last year.
In 2017, Tesla began producing its solar panels.
Since Tesla’s “Gigafactory 2” opened, it has been run as a union-free facility.
This has rankled the United Steelworkers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which have been targeting the Tesla factory workers since late last year.
“They built that facility on what we consider sacred USW land, where thousands of good family-sustaining jobs were for decades, prior to the plant closure,” said Maria Somma, organizing director for the Pittsburgh-based union told the Buffalo News this week.
“We are committed to making sure that those workers who are working for Tesla, who are on our sacred USW land, get the same rights and the same advantages that our members had prior to the [Republic] plant closing,” Somma said.
To date, the union has not filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold an election.
However, there have been a number of negative news stories involving the Buffalo plant that may help the union organizers’ cause.
Hopefully, though, if the IBEW and USW do, in fact, unionize the Tesla gigafactory, history won’t repeat itself and return the plant to its “brownfield” status.