Hundreds of union construction workers walked off the job at Tesla Motors' battery manufacturing plant in northern Nevada on Monday to protest what union organizers say is the increased hiring of out-of-state workers for less pay. Approximately 350 plumbers, carpenters, electricians, painters, and others walked away from the construction site about 25 miles east of Reno, says a rep for the Building and Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada. More than 100 picketed outside the main gate against what they say is an unfair labor practice that undermines promises to hire mostly Nevada workers in exchange for more than $1 billion in state tax breaks, he says. "It's corporate welfare at its worst," the union rep tells the AP.
Union officials said work at Tesla's gigafactory is increasingly being done by crews for the non-union, New Mexico-based Brycon Corp. Tesla said in a statement that it is in compliance with all state requirements and that many contractors at the site are union, but "the one at issue is not." The Governor's Office of Economic Development said Monday 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% Nevadans on the site of the Gigafactory" (the audit reportedly found 68% were). Meanwhile, Brycon's CFO said Monday his company is paying "fair wages" at all skill levels with a "very robust" benefits package. Union leaders haven't decided whether to file a formal complaint with the state or the US Labor Department; it's not clear if workers would return to their jobs Tuesday. (Read more Tesla stories.)