Labor Relations Board Files Worker Rights Complaint Against Tesla; Musk Fires Back

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
labor relations board files worker rights complaint against tesla musk fires back

The National Labor Relations Board has filed an official complaint against Tesla Motors, saying the company violated workers’ rights by suppressing their efforts to unionize.

While automakers hoping to keep employees from joining a union is nothing new, the NLRB’s issue focuses around an obligatory confidentiality agreement that may have prohibited them from openly discussing their working conditions and safety concerns at the company’s facility in Fremont, California. The agency also investigated allegations from the workers that Tesla intimidated and harassed them, which would be a violation of workers’ rights under federal labor law.

Meanwhile, Tesla has decided not to take any of this sitting down. The electric automaker has issued a scathing response to the complaint by giving the United Auto Workers a piece of its mind.

Several employees filed formal complains with the NLRB earlier this year, citing instances of security interfering with attempts to rally potential union supporters at the factory, interrogations, surveillance, and even threats of termination. The UAW, which is a party to the complaint, has been strenuously working to unionize Tesla this past year — something CEO Elon Musk would prefer to avoid.

In February, Musk explained he had noticed “quite a strong effort” by the UAW to unionize Tesla, but stated it would be detrimental to the company. “There are really only disadvantages for someone to want the UAW here,” he said. “I mean, the track record is worse at any other company. I don’t think this is likely to occur.”

Musk went on to suggest that the UAW had used sensationalism and outright lies to make the company appear as if it unfairly compensated its employees and provided a dangerous working environment. The CEO even said he would involve himself in the line work of employees that had been injured to prove that it was safe and, if it wasn’t, ensure steps were taken to remedy the situation.

However, some workers have continued speaking out against the automaker, with union support.

“For as long as I’ve been at Tesla, it’s been clear to me that it’s up to the workers to make sure that we’re safe and treated fairly,” stated Jonathan Galescu, a Tesla Production Associate. “I joined others in filing the charges for myself, but I also did it for my coworkers — they 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.”

The NLRB filing notes numerous occasions where factory security prohibited staff from passing out fliers, claiming that union leafleting was not allowed. Details of the employee agreement were also included in the document, which does appear to prohibit all outside communication about the company without approval. While the language used is broad, the company has previously specified that the agreement is written in a “plain-spoken manner that is respectful of the legal rights of our employees and fully compliant with state and federal laws.”

Tesla maintains that the confidentiality agreement exists to protect trade secrets, not stifle unionization. “Our confidentiality agreement has nothing to do with the rights of workers to openly discuss organizing efforts — something that is obvious from the document itself and disproved by the fact that a small number of active Tesla employees are currently engaging in this very behavior without retaliation,” a Tesla spokesperson explained to Automotive News last April.

That’s not a bad argument, but it hasn’t kept five California state lawmakers from urging Tesla to revise its agreement to better adhere to labor laws. It also hasn’t stopped the National Labor Relations Board from filing its own complaint.

In a more recent statement, the automaker responded to Thursday’s NLRB complaint filing — taking a specific aim at the UAW’s own tactics in an aggressive note that’s too good not to post in its entirety:

“As we approach Labor Day weekend, there’s a certain irony in just how far the UAW has strayed from the original mission of the American labor movement, which once advocated so nobly for the rights of workers and is the reason we recognize this important holiday. Faced with declining membership, an overwhelming loss at a Nissan plant earlier this month, corruption charges that were recently leveled against union leaders who misused UAW funds, and failure to gain traction with our employees, it’s no surprise the union is feeling pressured to continue its publicity campaign against Tesla. 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 filings that are meant only to generate headlines. These allegations, which have been filed by the same contingent of union organizers who have been so outspoken with media, are entirely without merit. We will obviously be responding as part of the NLRB process.”

A hearing has been scheduled before an administrative law judge of the NLRB on November 14th in Oakland, California.

[Image: Tesla]

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  • Thelaine Thelaine on Sep 02, 2017

    The UAW got 20 billion dollars of US taxpayer dollars to fund their pension system and they have no obligation to ever pay it back, all as a payoff for massive financial and political support for the Obama administration. When Musk says the UAW is corrupt, it is true, but I never cared as long as they were just stealing from their own members. Ever since they stole taxpayer's 20 billion, however, it has been a different story. Here is some language you gangster mooks can understand: Gimme back my fkin money, UAW. Delco workers took a big pension hit, but UAW workers got made whole with my money. Why? Graft and corruption. UAW went 69 with Obama. Simultaneous release.

    • See 5 previous
    • ToddAtlasF1 ToddAtlasF1 on Sep 03, 2017

      @JimZ "as opposed to the trillions the US Government stole to mess up Iraq and destabilize the entire Levant? step over dollars to pick up pennies." If you were sentient, you'd realize that the problem is that this is the level of consideration that goes into all government expenditures. They're spending other people's money to win the favor of people who they didn't steal it from at gunpoint. They're also taking other people's lives. Government is bad. More government is worse.

  • 65corvair 65corvair on Sep 02, 2017

    It's real easy to make the UAW go away. Treat you workers fairly. It worked for Honda, Toyota, etc. Happy workers make a better product and more profits.

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