Tesla has fired dozens of employees at its Gigafactory New York this week, one day after employees announced their efforts to unionize. The firings came to light in a complaint filed with the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Wednesday.
UPDATE 6:15pm PT: Tesla has responded to the allegations with a blog post on their website outlining the timing of the firings. You can read more about their response here.
On Tuesday a group of employees sent an email to Elon Musk notifying the CEO of their plans to form a union. The effort was being led by the Autopilot data labelling team, a group of about 800 employees, with the help of Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. The workers are seeking higher pay and greater job security, and less scrutiny on their work and their rate of production.
According to the NLRB complaint filed the next day, Tesla is retaliating and attempting to “terrify” the employees against forming a union.
“This is a form of collective retaliation against the group of workers that started this organizing effort. [The terminations are] designed to terrify everyone about potential consequences of them organizing, as well as to attempt to cull the herd,” said Jaz Brisack, a Workers United organizer. (via Bloomberg)
The NLRB complaint is seeking a federal court injunction “to prevent irreparable destruction of employee rights resulting from Tesla’s unlawful conduct.”
While they are saying the firings are attempting to squash any union efforts, the employees are also saying they are helping to bring more employees on their side who support unionization.
“It’s pretty clear the message they’re sending. They’re trying to scare us. And it’s really I think backfiring on them. It has really opened people’s eyes to the fact that this is why we need a union,” said Sara Costantino, an Autopilot worker and member of the organizing committee.
This is not the first time Tesla has gone up against the NLRB. Last year the board ruled Tesla violated labour laws by not allowing employees to wear pro-union insignia on their factory uniforms. That followed another ruling in 2021 which said Tesla “illegally intimidated” workers by stating that they “would forfeit their stock options if they chose the Union.”