Tesla Faces Scrutiny: NLRB Alleges Union Busting; Employees Allege Discrimination, Abuse


By Liz Carey

Fremont, CA (WorkersCompensation.com) – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a complaint against new age car company Tesla, alleging it threatened or intimidated employees from unionizing. 

And other employees at the plant, through a New York-based attorney, have alleged that the company engages in discrimination, workplace abuse and fraudulent accounting practices.

As previously reported in WorkersCompensation.com, workers at Tesla’s Fremont, CA plant wanted to join the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, and asked the company to create a plan to cover “employee safety and information on pay and promotion.” Starting pay at the auto factory is said to be $18 per hour, far below the national average for auto workers.

At the time, company founder Elon Musk said the company would be going through stressful times as it ramped up to produce 50,000 cars per year, close to six times its output in 2016.

But now, employees are saying that Tesla managers worked to prevent them from forming a union, using tactics like intimidation, mandatory overtime and dangerous working conditions. The United Auto Workers and three Tesla employees filed complaints with the NLRB alleging that it was Tesla’s way of suppressing their unionization efforts.

According to Inc. Magazine, the NLRB agreed and filed an official complaint against Tesla on Sept. 1. According to the complaint, Tesla forced employees to sign a restrictive confidentiality agreement that prevented them from organizing or discussing their work conditions. The complaint also said that some Tesla security guards and human resources employees intimidated union organizing employees from passing out pro-union leaflets and asked them to leave the premises.

Tesla has until Sept. 14 to respond to the complaint, which will be heard by a California administrative hearing judge on Nov. 14.

In response, Tesla blamed the UAW for misrepresenting conditions at the plant as a way to increase its membership.  

“Faced with declining membership, an overwhelming loss at a Nissan plant earlier this month, corruption charges that were recently leveled against union leaders who misused UAW funds, and failure to gain traction with our employees, it’s no surprise the (UAW) is feeling pressured to continue its publicity campaign against Tesla,” the company said in a statement. “For seven years, the UAW has used every tool in its playbook: misleading and outright false communications, unsolicited and unwelcomed visits to the homes of our employees, attempts to discredit Tesla publicly in the media, and now another tactic that has been used in every union campaign since the beginning of time — baseless ULP (Unfair Labor Practice) filings that are meant only to generate headlines. These allegations, which have been filed by the same contingent of union organizers who have been so outspoken with media, are entirely without merit. We will obviously be responding as part of the NLRB process.”

Separately, New York attorney Sean Yuen said in a press release earlier this week that he had been approached by three Tesla employees who alleged discrimination, abuse and fraudulent accounting at the company.

Yuen said in the release that he represented several clients who had affidavits “attesting that bigoted and abusive language was used against them by a Tesla/Solar City executive, as well as additional claims of illicit instruction to perpetrate deception and fraud.” 

Yuen said during a regional sales video conference in March, a sales team executive used several expletives to describe sales team members and their work ethics.

“There should be zero tolerance for such egregious acts,” Yuen said in a statement. “My clients are extremely upset by Tesla’s response to the injustices they witnessed and endured. It was without sympathy, or apology, and without strategy in preventing this sort of horrendous hostility in the work environment from ever happening again to anyone else”. 

Yuen did not return repeated emails and phone calls for comment by press time. Tesla did not respond to numerous emails about Yuen’s allegations by press time.

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