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Two of the main pillars of the National Labor Relations Act protect employees from companies who aim to interfere with unionization efforts or coerce employees away from exercising their federally-backed rights. According to Californian judge Amita Baman Tracy, Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk contravened these laws in 2017 and 2018.
Judge Tracy found that the company illegally threatened and retaliated against employees who sought unionization, and that a tweet by Musk further sought to coerce workers away from similar efforts.
As a company, Tesla had attempted to deter pro-union activities by instigating policies against off-duty employees being able to distribute leaflets, as well as interrogating people about union activities. Musk’s tweet in May 2018 said that staff who opted to join a union would “give up stock options for nothing,” and that the presence of United Auto Workers (UAW) members had an adverse effect on safety.
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.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) 21 May 2018
Judge Tracy’s ruling stipulates that Tesla must offer reinstatement and back-pay to an employee who was allegedly fired for being pro-union, as well as quashing a warning that was issued to another pro-union employee who was not fired.
Further, the judgment calls for a meeting at the Fremont, CA, factory, where Musk must read aloud a notice to employees informing them about the company’s breaches of the law.
None of this is likely to happen any time soon though. As Judge Tracy herself said during the hearings, “this will be appealed no matter what I decide.” Judging by Tesla’s refusal to comment thus far, it seems she may be proven right.