The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that Tesla violated US labor laws by firing a union activist and threatening working conditions via a tweet from CEO Elon Musk. As a result, the company must recover the fired employee and Musk force it tweet in question Bloomberg has reported.
Musk’s tweet, from May 2018, immediately drew attention as a possible violation of labor laws. In it, he said that “nothing is stopping the Tesla team at our car factory from voting for a union. They could if they wanted to. But why pay union fees and give up stock options for nothing?” Tesla argued that the tweet pointed out that union members from other automakers are not receiving stock options. However, former NLRB chairman Wilma Liebman argued that Tesla employees are likely to see it differently. “The employee will hear it like, ‘If I vote for a union, stock options will no longer be an option,’” she said. Bloomberg at the time.
Nothing will stop the Tesla team at our car factory from voting the union. Tmrw can do that if they wanted. But why pay union fees and give up stock options for nothing? Our safety record is 2x better than when the plant was UAW and everyone is already getting health care.
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 21, 2018
In its ruling, NLRB said the dismissed employee, Richard Ortiz, should be rehired and all records of disciplinary action removed from his personal files. The company must also “cure him for any loss of income and other benefits.”
In addition, it ordered Tesla to force Musk to remove the tweet in question and post a lengthy notice to workers about the ruling, stating their rights to “unionize, join or assist”. . The notice should also say that employees will not be fired or penalized for such activities and that the company will re-hire Ortiz with back wages. While an administrative judge advised that Musk read the notice aloud to employees in a meeting, the NLRB said the written notice would be sufficient.
Tesla has no comment yet, but rulings of the NLRB can be appealed to a federal court. However, the board cannot impose punitive damages, nor hold executives liable for violating the law, Bloomberg noted. As of today (March 26 at 7:01 AM ET), Musk’s tweet is still live.
The ruling also caught the attention of union officials and lawyers, who said it was far too late. “This is a company that has clearly broken the law and yet it takes three years for these employees to achieve some justice,” said Cindy Estrada, VP at United Autoworkers. Bloomberg