1 big thing: Biden vs. Musk over unions
Joe Biden wants to go big on climate change and big on unions. Elon Musk leads on the former but lags on the latter.
Why it matters: Musk isn’t uniquely averse to unions, but Tesla is considered a leader on the type of new technologies needed to tackle climate change. Musk’s leadership ethos could be in the crosshairs if Biden becomes president and follows through on his campaign vows.
Catch up fast: Biden’s climate-change plan calls for renewable energy to largely replace oil, natural gas and coal and for a huge buildout of electric vehicles. He is also pushing for these clean-energy industries to embrace unions, which they largely have not.
Where it stands: An administrative law judge ruled last fall that Tesla and Musk broke federal labor laws during a series of actions by company officials and tweets by Musk in 2017 and 2018 as workers were trying to form a union.
For the record: Tesla’s press department didn't respond to multiple requests for comment.
- Musk has defended his record on worker rights several times on Twitter, saying in 2018 that he is not opposed to unions generally, just the United Auto Workers. UAW filed the original complaint with the labor board.
The intrigue: Some experts following Tesla say the firm is missing an opportunity to lead not only on climate, but on worker rights too.
How it works: Biden’s recently expanded climate and energy plan calls for sweeping changes to labor laws, along with aggressive goals to transition away from fossil fuels.
- Click here to read my earlier column with specifics on Biden’s union plans.
What they're saying: “What Biden is suggesting is that you finally have some teeth in U.S. labor laws,” said Richard Bensinger, a former national organizing director of the AFL-CIO.
- “This will make a big difference in organizing places like Tesla because it will take these owners and hold them accountable for fighting the right of American workers to organize a union,” Bensinger said.
Yes, but: As with most bold campaign promises, this one relies heavily on Congress supporting Biden’s goals. If the Senate remains in Republican control (a prospect that's looking less certain), a lot of what Biden wants won't happen.