By on May 23, 2018

Elon Musk + Tesla Model S Circa 2011

Each day brings new reasons why no one should ever waste their precious earthly moments on Twitter, yet many of us keep up the practice. If we’re not seen doing things on social media, are we really alive? Are we really part of modern society?

Maybe that’s a discussion best left for another time. Regardless, heated back-and-forths on publicly visible platforms have a way of complicating one’s life, and a former National Labor Relations Board head claims Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s recent tweetstorm could land him in hot water.

It’s no secret that Musk prefers his Fremont, California assembly plant to remain untouched by union representation. Increased labor costs, work stoppages due to labor action — the beancounter-type reasons for any automaker to avoid the UAW are obvious. The CEO has made his view of the United Auto Workers pretty clear, especially in light of recent organizing attempts and the resulting fallout.

Still, it seems Musk felt it wasn’t clear enough.

When asked about his view on unions via Twitter Monday, Musk replied, “Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing? Our safety record is 2X better than when plant was UAW & everybody already gets healthcare.”

He followed it up with, “Also, UAW did nada for job security in last recession. Dropped Fremont like a hot potato to protect their core base in Detroit. UAW *chose* to exit this plant before Tesla even arrived. We had nothing to do with UAW leaving, but everything to do with why people here have jobs.”

The Fremont plant was formerly home to General Motors, and later a UAW-represented GM-Toyota joint assembly plant, before GM’s bankruptcy left it in limbo. Tesla purchased it in 2010, but its brief partnership with Toyota went nowhere. The Japanese automaker sold off the last of its Tesla shares last year.

Shortly after Musk posted his reply, the UAW joined the online fray. The union replied with a link to a 2017 NLRB hearing.

The eyebrows raised by that earlier tweet were numerous, with some saying it contained a veiled threat to dissuade workers from organizing. Wilma Liebman, former chair of the NLRB, told Bloomberg, “If you threaten to take away benefits because people unionize, that’s an out-and-out violation of the labor law.”

Musk would have been better off claiming union bargaining could erode some of their benefits, she added.

It seems Musk didn’t need the advice to cover his ass. Yesterday afternoon, when asked by a Twitter user with “Champagne socialist” in his bio whether he’d take away benefits from unionized workers, Musk responsed:


A couple of hours later, Musk challenged his questioner’s viewpoints, saying that perhaps he should explore just how much support the UAW has among Tesla’s workforce. “Let’s hold a vote & find out,” he tweeted.

[Image: Tesla]

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19 Comments on “Twitter Fallout: Musk’s UAW Tweet Leaves Him Wide Open, Says ex-NLRB Head...”

  • avatar

    It wouldn’t be hard for the number of accidents under Tesla ownership to be lower: in 2006, NUMMI produced 460,000 cars, while Tesla can’t even hit half that number.

    (Not to mention that there are questions as to how well Tesla is recording their accident numbers to begin with.)

  • avatar

    Hmmmm, like I’m going to trust Musk’s accident report numbers…

  • avatar

    Having been involved in an NLRB investigation and seeing this, my advice to Tesla’s HR Department: get those payroll records ready!

    Seriously, is Elon on dope or something?? If I was part of his family, I’d do an intervention.

  • avatar

    Not sure enough there there to prove anything.

    More concerning to me if I were an employee or investor?

    “Managing sucks btw. Hate doing it so much.”

    Um, so what are you doing at Tesla then? When you’re in his position isn’t that a huge part of the job?

    This guy is cancer. Tesla should boot him from the company. Nothing but a liability whose sole ability to drum up cash for the Tesla furnaces is fading as well.

  • avatar

    I don’t read that as a threat. The reality may be that Tesla would make its workforce pay for unionization through heavy handed manipulation of rules, benefits, etc…… but I don’t think you can take Elon’s tweets as validation of that.

    Besides, if Tesla doesn’t start producing more cars and eventually, some sort of profit, taking away stock options wont really have any impact on the workers.

    I am curious at what point to investors throw in the towel. Certainly with an onslaught of electric vehicles coming on line in the next few years, Tesla is becoming less special by the day.

    Similarly, there is probably a point where Elon says, “Let them unionize, they can pick apart the corpse to their heart’s content.”

    • 0 avatar

      @thegamper: “Certainly with an onslaught of electric vehicles coming on line in the next few years, Tesla is becoming less special by the day.”

      Exactly. To be more specific, these upcoming cars have better interiors (okay, that’s a given), potentially a charging network to rival Tesla’s, and in some cases better battery technology that can handle faster (ultra-fast) charging. The Mission E is even rumored to have a two speed transmission.

      The only thing that might make or break the competition are their dealer networks. Don’t know which way that will go.

      • 0 avatar

        Well, that’s pretty easy to say, isn’t it? Comparing an actual dealer, with a smiling young lady to greet you, and a nice waiting room, to erm, nothing but an email with a promise to do something sometime?

        Can anybody who has a Tesla comment on their experience dealing with any kind of issue? Does somebody show up at your house? Do they come tow your car somewhere? How does that work?

        • 0 avatar

          It’s a special kind of hell, check out the r/tesla on reddit.

          • 0 avatar

            r/tesla is a subreddit about the scientist and not the car company

            You’re thinking of r/teslamotors

        • 0 avatar

          I bought a 2015 Model S from a private party a few months ago. After a few weeks the sunroof wouldn’t open. Not knowing if it was minor or major, they had me bring it to the service center which is 40 miles away, and gave me a new one for a loaner. Pleasant experience. The sunroof needed minor adjustment and lubrication, and it was ready to go that afternoon. Since I couldn’t get there before closing, they had an employee drop it off and pick up the loaner. That was my first experience with service like that. My second was 2 days later when I accidentally walked into the open charge port door and bent it backwards, breaking it. They sent a service guy out to my house to repair it in my garage, at no charge, even though it was my fault. I absolutely love the car. I don’t care about the cost of gas or putting on airs. I just love the power.

  • avatar

    I don’t get Liebman’s perceived “threat” in what Musk said. What I got from the quote in the article is Musk thinks Tesla is doing right by it’s employees (healthcare and stock options). He also thinks one would be foolish to pay union dues and lose stock options as a result of unionization. The only possible threat in all that is the loss of stock options. Every company I’ve worked for has had the offer of investing in the company as a given via payroll deduction – totally voluntary. Couldn’t a unionized employee still invest in the company outside of the company itself? If so, where’s the loss? I would also add that the workforce itself probably has a different view of how they are being treated by Tesla. My experience has been very few upper management types truly get what working for the company is like for the average guy/gal.

    You see what you want to see and you hear what you want to hear. (I fall under that also. I have no strong opinion either way about Tesla or Musk. If they succeed great, if not – oh well.)

    • 0 avatar

      The ability to directly purchase company stock through a payroll deduction is totally not the same thing as “stock options”.

      Stock options are the ability to buy stock at a fixed price at some point in the future. For the rank-and-file, stock options are usually set at the current price as of the day the option was granted. When they later “vest” (usually 5 years later) if the stock is worth more, you “exercise” the options and either hold on to your cheap shares or immediately sell them at the current market price for cash.

      Pulling this benefit if workers unionize could totally be a threat, no different from threatening to cut everybody’s gross pay.

  • avatar

    “If we’re not seen doing things on social media, are we really alive? Are we really part of modern society?”

    Here’s a stark truth: If you people weren’t obsessed with Twitter, Donald Trump would not be the President.


    You people did all of this so shut the **** up and deal with the mess you created.

    Twitter is stupid.
    Facebook is stupid.
    Nobody cares what you think.
    There was a world before the Internet.
    There will be a world after.
    Get f**king real.

    • 0 avatar

      Nailed it.

    • 0 avatar

      Social media, like communism, works well as long as the parties involved have a close social connection. Facebook isn’t stupid when I use it to keep up with the lives of friends and family that I don’t see everyday, sometimes because they live far away. Twitter, in it’s original intention, was a way for friends to interact in an immediate way, like arranging planned or spontaneous get-togethers.

      Both Facebook and Twitter are stupid for anything involving people who don’t know each other. But if someone builds a communication platform, we shouldn’t be surprised when the loudest people will climb up on that platform and yell continuously. What is stupid is paying attention to those who are yelling.

    • 0 avatar

      You should cry more about it.

  • avatar

    Let me fix that for you The Truth about (Tesla) Cars:

    “Each day brings new reasons why no one should ever waste their precious earthly moments on Tesla…”

  • avatar

    UAW membership will change the Tesla deathwatch to a Tesla death spiral.

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