Electric car maker Tesla, the only car manufacturer in California, has been found guilty of mistreatment of staff and suppressing labor unions by a California state administrative law judge.
Judge Amita Tracy found that Tesla, its CEO Elon Musk, and its chief Chief People Officer Gaby Toledano repeatedly told workers not to form a union, and if they formed a union they would lose their stock options. One of the main pieces of evidence was a tweet by Musk, in which, while praising the safety of the Fremont facility over any union plant, also threatened union activity.
“Musk’s tweet can only be read by a reasonable employee to indicate that if the employees vote to unionize that they would give up stock options,” Tracy said of the tweet. “Musk threatened to take away a benefit enjoyed by the employees consequently for voting to unionize.”
Tesla has been ordered to remove all rules that suppress workers from forming a union, and to rehire and pay a fired worker due to union activity. They had been under investigation by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for several years before the verdict.
However many of the allegations have come through safety concerns, with employees citing, among other things, unsafe working hours and poor conditions.
Californian lawmakers had also taken action, with Assemblymembers writing letters to Elon Musk and Tesla over worker complaints and concerns over safety and workers rights. Assemblyman Kansen Chu (D-San Jose), has said of the incident “While I greatly respect and admire Tesla’s achievements in creating eco-friendly automobiles and green jobs right here in California, I want to ensure worker rights are protected and that they are provided a safe working environment.”
While the ruling is set to correct the rights violations, it hasn’t addressed the bigger concerns of worker safety or whether a union will even be formed. The Tesla workers the Globe interviewed a few weeks ago were mixed on if they wanted to form a union, some citing good pay and safety, while others remarked that the safety was poor with Tesla mistreating workers.
With the NLRB now keeping a close eye on the factory, Elon Musk giving a new commitment over safety, and auto unions creating the largest stir they’ve made in decades, Tesla looks like it will see a real battle over unionization in the near future.