Last night when the clock struck midnight, nearly 13,000 workers at Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis went on strike after the so-called “Big Three” car companies failed to reach an agreement with United Auto Workers (UAW). By Friday morning, UAW discovered that X, the platform formerly known as Twitter—in what appeared to be a petty move by platform owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk—had stripped their account’s verified status, The Intercept reported.
The move seemingly makes it harder for UAW to maximize reach for its posts on X, just as workers have begun striking, demanding better wages and other benefits.
Ford has claimed that the deal UAW was negotiating would have doubled automaker labor costs, and the Intercept noted that often wage increases won by union workers “trickle down” to non-unionized workers like Tesla’s. That perhaps worried Musk, who seemingly has a financial interest in keeping autoworker wages low and a history of union-busting. Earlier this year, Musk lost a court battle and had to delete a tweet that threatened Tesla workers attempting to unionize.
A UAW official told The Intercept that the union had paid for X verification and confirmed that the account had been marked as verified until earlier today when UAW said it was removed without any notification from X.
By midday Friday, UAW’s verified check was reinstated. The Intercept’s reporter, Ryan Grim, posted on X, writing, “Elon put the blue check back up. Maybe the Big Three will fold this fast too.”
To a request for comment, X only sent Ars an auto-response, saying, “Busy now, please check back later.” (To be fair, in this case “check back later” is a good summary of what happened.)
According to Axios, Tesla pays lower wages than the Big Three automakers currently faced with striking workers, with Tesla paying “an estimated labor cost of $45 to $50 per hour” compared to “about $64 to $67 per hour.”
In a post on X, Musk claimed that Tesla pays more than UAW’s required wages.
“We pay more than the UAW btw, but performance expectations are also higher,” Musk said. “Quite a few of our factory techs who work on the line have become millionaires over the years from company stock grants.”
Musk’s stake in the strike could go beyond wage questions, though. UAW’s negotiations also seek to expand benefits for union workers involved “in the production of electric vehicles and the batteries needed to power them,” The Intercept reported, and those conversations could also impact Tesla operations.
On top of the backlash over Musk’s union-busting tweet, Tesla has a history of violating labor laws.
The company previously was found in violation of labor laws for banning workers from wearing pro-union shirts. Last year, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ordered Tesla to revise its policies “to make clear that it does not prohibit production associates from wearing black union shirts.”
There was also tension earlier this year when Tesla Autopilot Buffalo-based workers tried to unionize, alleging that they were being treated “like robots” and pressured to skip bathroom breaks.
And most recently in April, the NLRB again ruled that Tesla violated labor laws when managers at an Orlando repair shop illegally silenced workers attempting to discuss pay and working conditions, Reuters reported.
Whether X was really attempting to limit reach of UAW’s posts at a critical moment—or there is some other possible justification for removing the verification—is still unknown. But UAW didn’t let the setback stop them from returning to the platform to amplify strikers’ demands as soon as the blue check was back.