As of this writing, more than 50,000 people have signed a Change.org petition to – what, solve food insecurity? Put an end to deforestation in the Amazon? Finally have 2002’s Death to Smoochy committed to the US National Film Registry? No, the petition is urging US President Joe Biden to officially recognize Tesla’s contributions to the battery-electric vehicle segment.
Back in August, President Biden invited representatives from Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis to an event promoting electric vehicles on the White House lawn. Tesla, far and away the biggest EV seller of the bunch, was not invited – and that, according to Business Insider, is where it all started.
In the time since, Biden has heaped praises on Ford and GM for their work in EVs, and has driven both the Ford F-150 Lightning and the GMC Hummer EV in highly publicized visits to Ford and GM factories, but generally shied away from extending the same level of recognition to Tesla.
And just last week, Biden hosted a business roundtable event to which Ford’s Jim Farley and GM’s Mary Barra were invited. Tesla CEO Elon Musk was again left out.
A Fight Over Union Representation
The Biden administration has not given a concrete reason for not inviting representatives from Tesla to either event, but the organizers of the petition tend to think it’s about union representation. Ford, GM, and Stellantis employ many thousands of United Auto Workers Union members, but Tesla’s Elon Musk has spouted anti-union speech in the past. Last year, the National Labor Relations Board ruled against Tesla in a case involving the firing of a pro-union worker, Richard Ortiz, and a 2018 tweet from Mr. Musk that appeared to threaten to take away workers’ stock options if they unionized.
Further lending credence to the argument, the Biden administration has proposed legislation that would extend new federal tax credits to EV purchases in a way that would favor vehicles built using union labor. Generally speaking, the US President supports workers’ rights to unionize.
“Biden’s insistance [sic] that GM is leading while completely ignoring Tesla is pure manipulation and he needs to stop,” reads a part of the petition. “The purpose of this petition isn’t to attack President Biden personally, but to let him know that we are not falling for the manipulation. We know Tesla is the leader and if you are manipulating Americans about who makes the most EVs, then what else are you trying to convince Americans of?”
By the numbers, the petition’s organizers have a point; Tesla delivered more than 936,000 EVs globally in 2021 – several times more than either Ford or GM. The controversial Cybertruck also stands as the unofficial catalyst for both Michigan-based automakers to hit warp speed on its electric vehicle development, with the Hummer EV and F-150 Lightning both beating the Cybertruck to market.