Tesla broke US labor law with anti-union efforts – watchdog

And Elon Musk must delete 2018 tweet threatening loss of benefits for unionizing


Tesla has been ordered to correct its unlawful labor practices, and its supremo Elon Musk must delete a related tweet from three years ago.

In a ruling issued on Thursday, the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) concluded that Tesla violated federal labor law in its efforts to discourage workers from unionizing. It directed the company to cease various anti-union actions and policies like claiming workers would lose benefits if they vote for union representation.

The NLRB found that Tesla violated labor law by coercively interrogating employees, threatening them with the loss of stock options if they supported unionization, and enacting unlawful policies like a confidentiality agreement that banned speaking to the press.

Tesla photo via Shutterstock

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The ruling directs the vehicle maker to offer to rehire plaintiff and former employee Richard Ortiz and pay him lost wages, and to strike unlawful disciplinary information from the record of both Ortiz and another employee, Jose Moran.

It further requires Tesla to rescind portions of its 2016 confidentiality agreement that disallow lawful union-related activity under Sections 7 and 8 of the National Labor Relations Act, which the NLRB acknowledged "protects employees when they speak with the media about working conditions, labor disputes, or other terms and conditions of employment."

The decision also directs self-styled "Technoking" Musk to delete a May 20, 2018, tweet because it implies workers must give up their stock options if they unionize.

"By tweeting on the @elonmusk Twitter account that the Respondent’s employees would lose their stock options if they chose the Union as their representative, Musk unlawfully threatened the Respondent’s employees in a manner viewable by the public without any limitations," the ruling says.

Finally, the NLRB is requiring Tesla to post a notice at its Fremont, Calif., facility explaining that workers have the right to organize under the law and stating that the company will not enact rules that interfere with protected union activity.

The case began in 2017 following a complaint filed by the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), which encouraged Tesla workers to vote to unionize.

This is a great victory for workers who have the courage to stand up and organize in a system that is currently stacked heavily in favor of employers

"This is a great victory for workers who have the courage to stand up and organize in a system that is currently stacked heavily in favor of employers like Tesla who have no qualms about violating the law," said UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, in a statement.

"While we celebrate the justice in today’s ruling, it nevertheless highlights the substantial flaws in US labor law. Here is a company that clearly broke the law and yet it is three years down the road before these workers achieved a modicum of justice."

NLRB rulings can be challenged in court. Tesla had not said whether it intends to do so; the company did not respond to a request for comment.

This is not the first time Tesla's leader has run into legal trouble for statements made on Twitter. In 2018, the SEC filed a securities fraud lawsuit against Musk for a tweet about Telsa's share price, which he subsequently settled. The following year, Musk was acquitted in a defamation lawsuit over 2018 his tweet calling British cave explorer Vernon Unsworth a "pedo guy." ®

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