Tesla’s Fight With Swedish Unions Just Got Trashy

Tesla’s Fight With Swedish Unions Just Got Trashy

If Elon Musk’s car company doesn’t want its Nordic offices to get really smelly, really fast, it’s going to have to put its tail between its legs and admit that it’s officially been bested by the organised labour of Europe.

That is to say, Sweden’s unions—which have been locked in a battle with the car company over collective bargaining rights—appear to have found yet another, innovative tool to prod Tesla into conceding defeat. That tool, apparently, is garbage.

On Wednesday, the Swedish Transport Workers union, which protects workers associated with the nation’s trash collection, announced that it would stop collecting trash at Tesla offices if the company did not ratify a collective bargaining agreement with a group of mechanics associated with the union IF Metall. The union’s website says that the trash embargo will go into effect on Dec. 24, should Tesla refuse to budge on negotiations.

Tesla has been in trouble with the country’s unions since it failed to ratify an agreement with the IF Metall workers in October. Those mechanics decided to go on strike instead of allowing themselves to be bulldozed by the car company and, as soon as they did, other regional labour unions began engaging in various actions to support them.

Those unions—not just in Sweden, but in other Nordic countries, as well—have been engaging in what are called “sympathy strikes,” wherein one union can engage in actions to support another. This has caused more than a few problems for Tesla. Recently, workers with Sweden’s post office, PostNord, stopped delivering license plates to Tesla as an act of solidarity, causing problems with order fulfilment in the country. While the company has reportedly found a way around that license plate embargo, it has also been subjected to similar strikes involving dock workers, electricians, drivers, and cleaners.

It’s clear that Swedish workers see a kind of existential threat to their specific form of organised labour and are fighting hard against the dangerous precedent that Tesla is trying to set. “This kind of sympathy action is very unusual. We are doing it now to protect the integrity of Swedish collective agreements and the Swedish labour market model. Tesla cannot buck the norm in the Swedish labour market,” Tommy Wreeth, the head of the transport union, told FT.

This is surely all pretty confounding for Elon, who is used to getting what he wants and refuses to cooperate with organised labour. Indeed, Musk has spent the past few decades doing pretty much whatever he feels like—whether that’s launching rockets, digging tunnels, promoting shitcoins, or selling the dream of environmentally friendly travel to the world’s most well-to-do. In recent years, he also dismayed large parts of the web by buying a popular website and treating it like his own personal voodoo doll. Who knew that the billionaire would be stopped dead in his tracks by a bunch of pissed-off garbage collectors from the land of the midnight sun?

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