Tesla pro-union protestors march on company’s Fremont factory
A group seeking to unionise Tesla employees has demonstrated their cause at the Fremont factory of Elon Musk’s company, protesting a spate of recent firings.
The pro-union force has been mounting calls since the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) supported claims from workers about intimidation and harassment within the company. In February, the electric carmaker allegedly threatened and interrogated employees who were pushing for unionisation.
Tuesday’s march, organised by A Fair Future At Tesla, saw the pro-union group – which included a number of community leaders and ex-Tesla employees – deliver a letter of protest:
“We see Tesla as an important company for our regional economy, employing thousands of workers in the extended Bay Area who are proud to be building a zero-emission electric car,” part of the letter reads. “Given its importance, we expect Tesla to be a responsible employer that leads with fair treatment of its workers.
“Among the fired workers are people who have raised their voices with concerns about health and safety risks, fair pay and the right to organize free from intimidation, and we are concerned that these workers may have been unjustly fired for doing so. We are calling for reinstatement of these workers and fair treatment for all employees.”
Tesla responded in a statement to Business Insider, drawing attention to promotions in the company:
“No one at Tesla has ever or will ever have any action taken against them based on their feelings on unionization,” part of the statement reads. “Some employees recently left Tesla, but what has not been reported is that a much larger number — 17% of our employees — were promoted, and almost half of those promotions were within our factory in Fremont.
“We are a company where people can be promoted as quickly as their talents and work allow. It is not unexpected that union supporters would protest any decision we make, including this one, and we respect their right to do so.”
Tesla is understood to have fired several hundred employees this month following annual reviews – something that company chalks up to poor performance. The company is currently facing a large amount of pressure around production of its Tesla Model 3, with a backlog of 450,000 reservations but only 260 electric cars actually produced last quarter.
Original story continues below.
Tesla accused of violating workers’ rights and interrogating employees by US labour board
1 Sept: The US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a government agency in charge of enforcing labour laws, has filed a complaint against Tesla, supporting claims from workers about intimidation and harassment within the company.
The agency’s complaint also claims Tesla violated the rights of its workers, by coercing them to sign a confidentially agreement that could prevent them from talking about working conditions at the company’s Fremont factory.
These grievances link back to events in February, when the United Automobile Workers (UAW) union filed a number of charges against Tesla, alleging Elon Musk’s electric carmaker had threatened and interrogated employees who were pushing for unionisation.
According to a number of accounts, Tesla employees distributing leaflets and talking about union activity had been forced by security guards to produce employee ID badges, then told to leave the factory. In April, Tesla said these allegations were “entirely without merit”, but the NLRM now says there is indeed merit to the accounts. It also names at least three individual Tesla managers who had personally “interrogated” employees about union activities.
As reported by Buzzfeed, NLRB regional director Valerie Hardy-Mahoney said the agency had determined that Tesla “has been interfering with, restraining and coercing employees in the exercise of their rights”.
Tesla has reiterated the claims are “entirely without merit”, and has taken aim at the UAW’s intentions.
“For seven years, the UAW has used every tool in its playbook: misleading and outright false communications, unsolicited and unwelcomed visits to the homes of our employees, attempts to discredit Tesla publicly in the media, and now another tactic that has been used in every union campaign since the beginning of time — baseless ULP [unfair labour practices] filings that are meant only to generate headlines. These allegations, which have been filed by the same contingent of union organisers who have been so outspoken with media, are entirely without merit.”
Tesla adds that the UAW has “strayed from the original mission of the American labor movement” and points to “declining membership” and “corruption charges” as reasons for the union to feel “pressured to continue its publicity campaign against Tesla”.
The group involved in the unionisation push, which calls itself Fair Future at Tesla, also issued a statement. Production associate Jonathan Galescu says his co-workers “need to know we have rights, and that we can speak up about what we are seeing and experiencing. […] I want to thank the NLRB for hearing us and the UAW for having our backs as we continue our fight to address the issues on the shop floor and form our union.”
Back in January, lawmakers from the Democratic Assembly signed a letter addressed to Elon Musk, expressing concerns about the company’s confidentiality agreement. While Tesla has said this agreement – preventing workers from sharing information about work in the factor – is normal for a technology company, the lawmakers say the “over-broad language” of the contract has resulted in a “chilling effect on workers’ ability to engage in protected activity”.
In regards to the NLRB charges, the agency has scheduled a hearing before an administrative law judge for 14 November.
Image: Screenshot from video by A Fair Future At Tesla