Monday, 1 October 2018

What Tesla’s union-busting trial means for the rest of Silicon Valley

In some sense Tesla’s union question is an existential one: is Tesla a tech company or a car company? Car companies tend to have strong unions, while tech companies do not.
Musk runs Tesla like a tech company. Tesla’s done a top-to-bottom redesign of cars, and of the factory workflow. There are sudden pivots, and plenty of investment, despite a lack of profit — so far, so tech. Then you have the cars themselves: have to charge their batteries, the company can push over-the-air software updates to your car and totally change how it works, and uh they’re hackable. But they’re still cars: they go on roads, you drive them, and in most states you are legally compelled to buy car insurance for them.
Unions do exist in tech, though mostly among contract workers — the drivers of tech company employee shuttles have one, for instance. But Silicon Valley, the tech epicenter, exists in part because of opposition to unions, according to Alex Press. That’s how California beat out Boston in the post-World War II boom.

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