Musk says he's open to union vote at California Tesla plant
Elon Musk attends a forum in Hong Kong, China on Jan. 26, 2016. (Reuters/Bobby Yip)

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said Thursday he was open to a union vote at a California factory where the company has been sanctioned over its response to earlier union campaigns.

Musk, bantering with other commentators on Twitter, said the biggest challenge facing the company's Fremont, California plant was a tight labor market rather than fear of a campaign by the United Auto Workers.

"I'd like hereby to invite UAW to hold a union vote at their convenience," Musk tweeted. "Tesla will do nothing to stop them."

"Our real challenge is Bay Area has negative unemployment, so if we don't treat and compensate our (awesome) people well, they have many other offers and will just leave!" Musk said.

The statements came as the billionaire entrepreneur responded to other commentators who noted that US President Joe Biden's State of the Union address praised electric vehicle (EV) investments by Ford and General Motors, which are both unionized.

But the US president did not mention the non-union Tesla, which is a far bigger EV producer.

The UAW did not have an immediate comment on Musk's remarks.

The union has battled Musk previously over the California plant, charging the company with violating workers' right to organize, including firing an employee in 2017 who led a unionization drive.

The National Labor Relations Board in March 2021 ruled that the company had committed unfair labor practices, ordered the fired worker to be reinstated and called for a Musk tweet discouraging unionization to be deleted.

Tesla is appealing the decision.

The EV company has recently come under scrutiny over its workplace culture at Fremont, with California state officials accusing Tesla of discriminating against Black workers in a lawsuit.