Tesla accused of union buster bluster at Buffalo factory

Musk's motor biz? Monitoring labor activists? Surely not!

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is taking Tesla back to the hearing chamber, this time to settle whether it interfered with the organizing rights of employees at its factory in Buffalo, New York.

In its complaint [PDF], the NLRB alleges that Tesla's Acceptable Use Policy for Workplace Technology, put into place shortly before a group of Autopilot workers claim they were fired for trying to form a union, is unlawful. 

The policy states that workplace tech can't be used for "unauthorized solicitating [sic] or promoting" or "creating channels and distribution lists."

"The complaint alleges that Tesla maintains this rule in order to discourage its employees from forming, joining or assisting the Union or engaging in other concerted activities," NLRB spokesperson Kayla Blado said in a statement about the filing.

The employees who allege they were fired were part of a group working on data labeling for Tesla Autopilot, assigning labels to images that are used to train Autopilot AI – the exact sorts of jobs Musk had said he wanted to automate at Tesla. The labellers, afraid for their jobs, publicly launched a union membership campaign on February 14, 2023. 

Two days later, it is claimed, Tesla fired at least 18 members of the team. In their eventual complaint to the NLRB, the group said they were terminated because they had considered unionizing.

This isn't a one-off accusation leveled against an Elon Musk operation. Tesla has faced multiple labor lawsuits and NLRB complaints in recent years alleging other instances of Tesla suppressing labor organizing, as well as unlawful mass layoffs and discrimination.

That's not to mention a similar improper termination complaint at SpaceX, while claims of discriminatory layoff practices have also dogged Musk at Twitter, now X, since his takeover.

Blado said that an NLRB complaint is not an indicator of guilt, but "the first step in the NLRB's General Counsel litigating the allegations after investigating the charges and finding merit."

Of course, being an NLRB operation there's only so much that can be done. Of the NLRB's limited enforcement powers, it wants Tesla to stop preventing workers from organizing and require notes be posted in all break areas about employee labor rights and the outcome of the hearing. 

If the parties don't settle, the matter will be before an NLRB administrative law judge later this summer. ®

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like