The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that Tesla violated U.S. labor laws by sacking a union activist and threatening the benefits of workers via a tweet from CEO Elon Musk. As a result, the company must reinstate the dismissed worker and force Musk to remove the tweet in question, Bloomberg reported.
Musk’s tweet, dated May 2018, immediately drew attention as a possible violation of labor law. In it, he said, “Nothing prevents the Tesla team at our auto plant from voting for the union. Could do so if they wanted to. But why pay union dues and forgo call options? actions for nothing? ” Tesla argued that the tweet pointed out that union members from other automakers were not receiving stock options. However, former NLRB chairwoman Wilma Liebman argued that Tesla workers might see it differently. “The employee will hear her say, ‘If I vote to unionize, stock options will no longer be an option,'” she said. Bloomberg at the time.
Nothing prevents the Tesla team at our car factory from voting for the union. Could do it tmrw if they wanted to. But why pay union dues and give up stock options for nothing? Our safety record is twice as good as when the factory was UAW and everyone is already receiving health care.
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 21, 2018
In its ruling, the NLRB said terminated employee Richard Ortiz was to be rehired with all references to disciplinary action removed from his personal files. The company must also “cure him of any loss of income and other benefits”.
In addition, he ordered Tesla to ask Musk to delete the tweet in question and post a long notice to employees about the decision, declaring their rights to “form, join or help a union.” The notice should also state that workers will not be fired or sanctioned for such activities and that the company will rehire Ortiz with back wages. While an administrative judge recommended Musk read the notice aloud to workers at a meeting, the NLRB said the written notice would suffice.
Tesla has yet to comment, but the NLRB’s rulings are subject to appeal in federal court. However, the board cannot impose punitive damages or hold leaders accountable for breaking the law, Bloomberg Noted. As of today (March 26 at 7:01 a.m. ET), Musk’s tweet is still live.
The decision also caught the attention of union officials and activists, who said it came far too late. “Here is a company that has clearly broken the law and yet there are three years left before these workers achieve a minimum of justice,” said United Autoworkers vice president Cindy Estrada. Bloomberg.