UAW says it will greet Tesla workers with 'open arms'

By By Joseph White Features Reuters

The United Automobile Workers union on Friday said it has been approached by workers at Tesla Inc's Fremont, California assembly plant, and it rejected Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk's charge that a worker who publicly criticized the company was on the UAW payroll.

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The worker, Jose Moran, "is not and has not been paid by the UAW," the union said, responding to comments Musk made to the website Gizmodo. "We can confirm that Mr. Moran and others at Tesla, have approached the UAW and we welcome them with open arms.���

The Fremont factory was once a UAW-represented operation, owned by General Motors Co , but it became a non-union shop when Tesla took over in 2010.

Musk told Gizmodo on Thursday: "Our understanding is that this guy was paid by the UAW to join Tesla and agitate for a union. He doesn���t really work for us, he works for the UAW."

A representative for Moran said on Friday he was at work at Tesla.

The volley between Musk and the UAW comes as Tesla is planning to idle for a week this month the Fremont factory where it builds its current Model S sedans and Model X sport utilities to prepare for production of the high-volume Model 3 sedan.

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Musk is pushing to launch production of the Model 3 by July. He has projected its output will reach 500,000 vehicles a year, roughly five times the production of vehicles at the Fremont plant last year.

In a blog post earlier this week, Moran wrote that Tesla workers are pushed to work mandatory overtime and are paid less than the average for the auto industry.

The post charged that preventable injuries are common at the plant and that "many of us have been talking about unionizing." He added that Tesla managers have required workers to sign confidentiality agreements agreeing not to speak out about wages or working conditions. (http://bit.ly/2kcIsyK)

Musk, in comments reported by Gizmodo, said there is sometimes mandatory overtime, but it is dropping.

He wrote the company's starting wages are higher than UAW starting pay and added that employees also receive stock grants. Confidentiality agreements are meant to prevent company secrets from leaking, Musk said, according to Gizmodo.

A Tesla spokesman could not be reached immediately to comment on Musk's statements.

(Reporting by Joseph White Editing by W Simon)