Nordic workers aren’t happy with Elon Musk’s Tesla — and they’re showing their displeasure.
After Swedish workers began a strike earlier this fall against Musk’s electric vehicle giant, many comrades in neighboring countries are now either standing in solidarity or preparing to do so.
Mechanics servicing Teslas in Sweden, who started striking in October, were joined by dockworkers and colleagues in car dealerships in a mounting anti-Tesla campaign. And help is now also starting to arrive from across Nordic borders.
Swedish union IF Metall has been pushing Tesla to sign a collective agreement on wages and working conditions. It threatens that the strike will go on until a deal is reached.
Continental union bosses are clear on how they feel about Musk, and they also want the EU to get involved.
“It’s time for the European Union to step up and become tougher on Musk,” Claes-Mikael Ståhl, deputy general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, told POLITICO.
‘Hostile to workers’
Nordic unions are annoyed with Tesla — owned by billionaire entrepreneur Musk, who also owns social media platform X and astronautics company SpaceX — and are starting to help their Swedish counterparts.
Danish transport union 3F Transport on Tuesday started blocking Teslas from being transported through Denmark en route to Sweden, after a request from IF Metall, according to Danish broadcaster DR.
On Wednesday, the Norwegian union Fellesforbundet said it would boycott Teslas bound for Sweden passing through Norwegian harbors, if Tesla does not acquiesce to IF Metall’s demands by December 20.
Finnish transport union AKT joined in on Thursday, saying it too would block Teslas coming through Finnish harbors if no deal was reached by December 20. “It is a crucial part of the Nordic labor market model that we have collective agreements and unions support each other,” Ismo Kokko, president of AKT, said in a statement.
Nordic unions aren’t the only workers challenging Musk. In the U.S. the United Auto Workers union is pushing to unionize Tesla workers, as the company has faced accusations of union busting.
It’s also a growing issue for Tesla in Germany, where it has a gigafactory near Berlin. IG Metall, Germany’s largest union, said it is seeing a rise in signups from Tesla workers concerned about their working conditions.
IG Metall boss Christiane Benner warned Musk about his anti-union views in an October interview with Bloomberg, saying: “You need to be careful. The rules of the game are different here.”
Jørn Eggum, leader of Norway’s Fellesforbundet, said: “It’s a collective battle, in our view. There is no doubt Tesla is a company hostile to workers. Tesla is systematically undermining efforts to unionize and is trying to implement U.S. conditions in Europe.”
Eggum is clear that Fellesforbundet will enter the fray if Tesla tries to steer cars through Norwegian harbors. “We will take action to block them,” he vowed.
Fellesforbundet has been joined by the Danish industry union Dansk Metal in its show of support. “In Dansk Metal we would have liked to see Nordic coordination to put as much pressure on Tesla as possible,” said René Nielsen, vice president of Dansk Metal.
The Danish union is following the action in Sweden closely, Nielsen added. “We are currently assessing what actions we might be able to take in Denmark,” he warned.
In a sign of a widening problem, PensionDenmark said it would be dumping its Tesla shares, becoming the first Nordic institutional investor to sell the carmaker’s stock in response to the dispute.
Tesla did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment.
However, Musk has recently addressed his distaste for unions, saying in New York last week: “I disagree with the idea of unions. I just don’t like anything which creates a lords and peasants sort of thing. I think the unions naturally try to create negativity in a company.”
Prepared for a long conflict
As for the guys who started the action against Tesla, they are digging in for a long strike.
“We are prepared for this conflict to take a very long time before we get a collective agreement,” said Jesper Pettersson, a spokesperson for IF Metall.
And the backing from unions across Europe has not gone unnoticed. “We are getting incredibly strong support from our Nordic friends. It’s very important and we are grateful for it,” Pettersson said.
Despite his status as an EV market leader, Musk is not doing his part in the green transition, according to Stahl from ETUC.
Green jobs and production also have to be on good terms for workers. “It’s the world’s richest man, and he obviously can’t afford to pay workers accordingly,” he said.