The recent White House EV executive order event in DC had CEOs from Ford and GM and the COO from Stellantis North America. Noticeably absent was Tesla‘s Elon Musk. The event was to mark Biden’s tightening fuel economy regulations. As the Biden administration has been pushing for more EVs in the industry, one would think that Musk would be spending a lot of time at the White House.
However, that invite must have been lost in the mail because he has been notably absent at many of these kinds of events. Let’s take a look at why Elon isn’t getting flooded with invitations by the current administration.
The White House event that featured the Big Three
The White House event on clean car production featured Biden driving the new Jeep Wrangler 4xe PHEV around the south lawn has been hot news on social media. The press coverage shows the president jubilantly driving the Jeep around, something that sitting presidents are strictly forbidden to do.
The drive was completely off script and was egged on by the COO from Stellantis North America, who proclaimed, “keys are in the Jeep.” Being a car guy, that’s all the president had to hear before bounding over and jumping behind the wheel to the astonishment of the crowd in attendance. Great press for Jeep, to be sure.
However, notably absent from the event was a representative from Tesla, one of the country’s most popular manufacturers of EVs.
The most recognizable EV manufacturer was absent
As much fun as the whole thing appeared to be, one person was glaringly absent. Where was Elon Musk? Musk has been instrumental in making EV models mainstream and certainly making environmentally friendly choices for his company on the whole. So why wasn’t he in attendance?
The answer is pretty simple. Tesla is very anti-union. In fact, Tesla’s absence was reportedly due to the United Auto Workers (UAW) being in attendance at the event, an organization that Tesla has been fighting for years to keep out of its U.S. plants.
Tesla fights to keep the unions out of its plants
Elon Musk has been fighting unionization at Tesla and his other companies for years. In a Twitter tweet from 2018, Musk said, “Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing?”
Three years later, NLRB found that Musk violated Federal Labor Law with that tweet. He also illegally fired an employee, Richard Ortiz, for union activity that was protected by law. Ortiz was part of a campaign called “Fair Future at Tesla,” a campaign started by the UAW to organize Tesla’s North American plants.
In the end, Tesla’s obvious absence was likely a political stance. Biden and the Democrats are counting on union votes, and the Big Three are all using UAW workers in their factories in the U.S. Tesla’s sour relationship with the UAW is likely why he was not present at the event, nor will he likely be invited to similar events in the future. Until Musk allows his plants to unionize, the current administration will likely distance themselves from the company.
Ultimately, Musk may opt to move operations to India if tax cuts make it monetarily feasible. This would also help him avoid the scrutiny of those who want to unionize the plants, which he is hoping to avoid at any cost. Musk is a shrewd businessman and will cut costs for the company wherever he can. Tesla has been so enormously successful because of Musk, despite his long list of controversies. So, they will likely lead where he follows, but it’s not likely to be in the direction of the UAW.