An estimated 100 union construction workers walked off the job at Tesla Motors' battery manufacturing plant in Sparks, Nev., on Monday to protest what union organizers say is the increased hiring of out-of-state workers for less pay.
The workers picketed outside the main gate against what Russell James of Local 567 painters union, says is an unfair labor practice that undermines promises to hire mostly Nevada workers for the project in exchange for more than $1.25 billion in Nevada state tax breaks over the next 20 years.
For local news video, click here.
Another 350 plumbers, carpenters, electricians, painters and others walked away from the construction site Monday along U.S. Interstate 80 about 25 miles east of Reno.
Union officials said work at Tesla's gigafactory is increasingly being done by crews for the non-union, New Mexico-based Brycon Corp.
"Nevada's tax dollars should be used to provide jobs for Nevada construction workers, not New Mexico construction workers," said Ted Koch, president of the northern Nevada council.
Tesla said in a statement that the electric car-maker is in compliance with all state requirements. It said many of the contractors at the site are union, but "the one at issue (Brycon, based in Rio Rancho, New Mexico) is not."
“Today’s activity stems from the local Carpenters Union protesting against one of the third-party construction contractors that Tesla is using,” the automaker said. “Their issue is not with how Tesla treats its workers.”
The Governor's Office of Economic Development said Monday that an outside audit released in December for fiscal year 2015 showed Tesla was in compliance with state law requiring the company "employ a minimum of 50 percent Nevadans on the site of the Gigafactory."
"That audit showed that 68 percent of construction workers were Nevadans. Tesla reported that Nevadans comprised 74 percent of construction workers during the 4th quarter of 2015. Tesla has exceeded, and continues to exceed, the requirement to hire Nevadans," said Jennifer Cooper, the office's communications director.
The incentive package allows in some cases for Tesla to hire more out-of-state workers if not enough skilled workers are available in Nevada. But James insisted that's not the case.
"They say it's because there are not enough workers in state to fill the jobs, but we have all kinds of workers available. They simply are going out of state because they can pay them less money," James said Monday.
According to James union leaders have not decided whether to file a formal complaint.
In a letter to shareholders earlier this month, Tesla said that it has begun manufacturing energy-storage devices, including the Powerwall for homes, at the plant. In September 2014, Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk and Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval announced a deal that included as much as $1.25 billion in tax breaks over 20 years and a requirement that half the so-called gigafactory’s expected 6,500 permanent positions go to Nevada residents.
Source: Salt Lake Tribune