Editor’s Note: This report has been clarified to reflect the small portion of Toyota Motor North America workers who are unionized.
Toyota Motor North America hit back at a Michigan senator for suggesting at an event attended by President Joe Biden at a General Motors plant in Detroit that Toyota – which employs about 2,000 people in Michigan – was not part of the “local team” because it is largely non-unionized.
In an unsigned internal memo titled “Fast Facts” distributed Thursday to the Japanese automaker’s 38,000 employees in the United States via email and shared with Automotive NewsToyota said Democratic U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow “directly attacked Toyota for responding to its discriminatory proposal. This was an unprecedented attack, including false and hypocritical accusations.”
Stabenow on Wednesday defended a controversial additional $4,500 tax credit for consumers who buy an electric vehicle made in a unionized U.S. factory — a proposal led by herself and Democratic Michigan Rep. Dan Kildee and endorsed by Biden.
Fresh off the passage of a bipartisan federal infrastructure bill that includes funding for electric vehicle chargers and national power grid upgrades, Stabenow and the president were speaking at the Factory Zero EV plant. of GM in front of an audience made up largely of UAW members.
“I think it takes a lot of guts for a car company based in Japan, where they almost prevent us from selling to them in Japan, where they get government funding and consumer rebates in Japan, where they have a hand- union workers in Japan — in fact, everywhere except America, by the way, where they are fighting tooth and nail against Americans who have tried to organize — they need a lot of nerve to fight against our efforts to have a consumer bonus for buying vehicles made by the United Auto Workers,” Stabenow told the audience to applause. “So I call that just leveling the playing field, and I’m committing to support the home team and lead this effort in the Senate.”
The union-built electric vehicle tax credit provision — part of the $1.75 trillion Building back better – faces an uphill battle in the equally divided Senate, where he is opposed by Republicans and moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who is home to a key Toyota Engine and Transmission Plant.
In the email, which was verified by a company spokesperson, Toyota said it “believes the future of mobility is electric and we support incentives that make electric vehicles cost more affordable for consumers. But he also said Stabenow “doesn’t consider the 2,000 Toyota team members in Michigan to be part of the local team. Nor does she consider the more than 38,000 Americans across the country who directly support their families by working at Toyota as part of the ‘home team.'”
Toyota operates two major research and engineering centers near Ann Arbor, Michigan, and has employees elsewhere in Michigan. Its large assembly and component plants in the United States are not unionized. A small part of its workers are unionized, less than 1,000 people. They are found primarily in its logistics operations and parts distribution centers, with workers represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and some port workers are represented by the International Longshoremen’s Association.
The Japanese automaker, which has led efforts to kill union-built EV credit alongside other international manufacturers, including American Honda and Volkswagen Group of America, told its employees, “Rest assured that we will not be intimidated by Senator Stabenow – or anyone who treats our American workforce like second-class people. Your work to build a future carbon free is no less valuable than that of any other American auto worker.”
The company also says it “doesn’t believe the government should discriminate against half of all American autoworkers just because they chose not to join the UAW.”
A Toyota spokesperson said the company had no further comment beyond what was in the email.
Stabenow responded to Toyota’s memo in a statement emailed to Automotive Newssaying:
“Instead of bullying its workers here in the United States, in its next memo to employees, Toyota should explain why union wages and benefits are good enough for its workers in Japan but not here in America. Perhaps the National Labor Relations Board should review this message as potential intimidation of workers through coercive statements to its American workers.”