Update: September 15, 2023, 2:33 p.m. ET
This article was updated to include information about a Twitter policy to temporarily remove checkmarks from verified accounts that change their profile pictures. Twitter offered only an auto-response to The Intercept’s request for comment ahead of publication. The article was previously updated to note that Twitter restored UAW’s Twitter verification after publication.
After members of the United Auto Workers walked off the job at midnight, Twitter stripped the union of its account verification without notice, according to a UAW official. The account, as of publication time, lacked verification — but its blue check was restored shortly after the story began circulating widely. Twitter’s verification policy temporarily removes verification from accounts that change profile pictures, which the UAW did in conjunction with the walkout.
A UAW official told The Intercept that the union’s account, which they paid for, was verified until Friday morning, when suddenly it wasn’t. The most recent entry for the UAW Twitter account in the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, from September 9, confirms that the union was blue check verified. A request for comment from Twitter earned the auto-reply, “Busy now, please check back later.”
Some 13,000 UAW workers are participating in what they’re calling their Stand Up Strike, which will roll out in phases if the so-called Big Three auto manufacturers — Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis (formerly Chrysler) — continue to resist workers’ demands. Many of the Big Three’s electric vehicle manufacturers are non-union, a key sticking point in negotiations.
Following the 2007 and 2008 financial crisis, autoworkers agreed to radical concessions on everything from pensions to wages to health care in order to help Detroit emerge successfully from bankruptcy. The companies have since returned to extraordinary levels of profitability, with CEO pay and company profits climbing by 30 to 40 percent in recent years. UAW workers have demanded similar increases over the next four years, demands the companies have rejected even as they continue stock buybacks intended to pump up the share price and corresponding executive compensation.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra was expressly asked about the pay disparity in an interview on CNN on Friday morning.
“You’ve seen a 34 percent pay increase in your salary, you make almost $30 million; why should your workers not get the same type of pay increases that you’re getting leading the company?” asked CNN reporter Vanessa Yurkevich.
Barra responded to the unusually pointed line of questioning with typical platitudes: “When the company does well, everyone does well.”
The Big Three automakers and the UAW are focused closely on the role organized labor will play in the production of electric vehicles and the batteries needed to power them, as is Elon Musk, the owner of both Twitter and Tesla. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, as a price for his support of Joe Biden’s climate agenda, insisted on stripping a provision that would have tilted the EV production playing field in favor of unions. Musk spoke out against the measure as well.
Tesla pays significantly lower wages than the Big Three, averaging $45 to $50 per hour versus $64 to $67 per hour, respectively. The company has led a slash-and-burn union-busting campaign in recent months.
In February, Tesla fired at least 18 software employees at a plant in Buffalo, New York, after they announced plans to unionize. Then, in March, a federal appeals court found that Musk violated federal labor law when he tweeted a threat to employees’ stock options should they decide to unionize and that Tesla also broke the law when it fired a worker engaged in union organizing.
“Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union,” Musk tweeted in 2018. “Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing?”
In April, Tesla suffered another loss, this time in front of the National Labor Relations Board. The agency ruled that the company violated federal labor law when it forbade employees from discussing wages and working conditions.