Elon Musk doesn’t like unions and does not hide it.
He is opposed to the creation of a union at Tesla, and will do anything to make unionization efforts fail.
His favorite argument is that the manufacturer of electric vehicles offers among the most attractive working conditions and wages and benefits.
His aversion to unions is one of the sources of tension with the Biden administration. President Joe Biden is a big supporter of the unions. He even hosted labor leaders after their April historic victory at Amazon, another anti-union stronghold.
“Chris Smalls is making good trouble and helping inspire a new movement of labor organizing across the country,” the Democratic president posted on Twitter on May 11, referring to an Amazon Labor union organizer. “Let’s keep it going.”
‘Everyone Is a Worker’
But Musk has just put forward a very original idea which could well have the approval of the unions. The tech tycoon recommends abolishing the class system present in companies. Basically, Musk wants to end the famous distinction between managers and employees and everything that goes with it.
“There shouldn’t be this workers vs management two-class system,” the serial entrepreneur wrote on Twitter on June 2. “Everyone is a worker.”
Such an idea seems revolutionary, even Marxist, but Musk explains that at Tesla, the barriers were abolished between managers and employees. In Tesla factories, there is no special treatment for managers. Everyone is housed in the same boat, says the CEO.
“Everyone eats same food, uses same restrooms, etc – no executive chef or other ivory tower stuff,” the tech tycoon said.
The system described by Musk somewhat resembles Toyotism, which is already found in tech companies where employees are supposed to have much more freedom to plan and execute their work. The workplace must be welcoming and friendly to retain employees.
In Toyotism, imported from Japanese companies, managers and executives participate in the execution tasks and the workers are called upon to give their opinion to improve the organization of work and productivity, often through so-called quality circles, for example.
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While the proposal to end the class system within companies is applauded, many commentators remind Musk that the hierarchy in wages is not going away.
“This gives the illusion of a classless system, but what do the *paychecks* say?” one user asked the billionaire. “Your workers belong to a class based largely on their income—something you can+do impact. You think letting them use the same bathroom as rich people at work materially changes anything?”
“And yet they’re all paid differently,” another user commented. “The only way this wouldn’t happen is if the workers owned the company. And I’m sure you wouldn’t like that.”
Musk’s Double Talk
“The CEO to worker pay ratio at @Tesla is 18,000 – 1,” commented Max Berger a political organizer, who worked for Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. He’s a co-founder of the Momentum Training community and IfNotNow.
Musk collects no pay from Tesla, but he has an extraordinarily ambitious incentive scheme that pays out. The pay package was worth around $2.5 billion at the time he was granted in 2018.
Musk’s proposal would be well received if it weren’t made around the same time the chief executive officer ordered Tesla employees to return to the office for 40+ hours per week or quit.
Tesla has allowed remote work where it is possible since the covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020. But with the economy reopening, Tesla, like other companies, wants employees back in the office.
“Anyone who wishes to do remote work must be in the office for a minimum (and I mean *minimum*) of 40 hours per week or depart Tesla. This is less than we ask of factory workers,” Musk wrote in a series of emails sent to Tesla employees this week.
He also reminded them that he set the example by sleeping in the factory.
“The more senior you are, the more visible must be your presence,” the billionaire said. “That is why I lived in the factory so much – so that those on the line could see me working alongside them. If I had not done that, Tesla would long ago have gone bankrupt.”
In another email, Musk also said that the electric vehicle maker will cut 10% of salaried workers and will instead rely on more hourly workers.