- The National Labor Relations Board ruled Thursday that Tesla repeatedly violated labor laws.
- The NLRB said Elon Musk must remove a tweet that “unlawfully threatened” workers hoping to unionize.
- It also said Tesla must rehire a union activist it fired in 2017.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The National Labor Relations Board ruled Thursday that Tesla repeatedly violated labor laws by trying to prevent workers from organizing and discussing working conditions.
In a 3-2 vote, the NLRB found Tesla broke the law by “coercively interrogating” workers engaged in legally protected organizing activities, using gag orders to prevent them from talking to the media, and firing union activist Richard Ortiz in 2017 (the board ordered Tesla to rehire the worker).
Tesla did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
The NLRB also ruled CEO Elon Musk “unlawfully threatened” workers in a 2018 tweet and must remove it.
“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,” Musk said in the tweet.
US labor law allows companies to claim bad things could happen if workers unionize, but it doesn’t allow them to punish workers if they do unionize. So, the NLRB said, Musk violated those laws by saying employees “would lose their stock options if they chose the Union as their representative.”
Musk’s tweet came in response to increased efforts by workers at Tesla’s Fremont, California, plant to form a union with the United Auto Workers (the “UAW” Musk referenced in the tweet) amid what they said were grueling working conditions.
UAW and Tesla employees had filed labor violation charges against Tesla in 2017, accusing it of trying to silence pro-union workers, leading the NLRB to open a formal complaint against the company.
Musk has clashed with workers at the Fremont factory over working conditions since then, as well.
Last May, after public health orders required nonessential businesses to shut down in Alameda County, Musk reopened the factory in defiance of those orders. The county eventually reversed course and let the factory restart operations after Tesla sued.
But a month later, several Tesla employees tested positive for COVID-19 despite claims from the company’s safety chief that there had been “zero COVID-19 workplace transmissions” since the plant reopened, and public health data has since identified more than 450 cases tied to the factory, which has around 10,000 workers.
Tesla employees said the company fired some workers who stayed home out of fear of catching the virus, despite telling workers they could do so.