Tesla is facing a formal unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board from the United Automobile Workers after the automaker fired more than 400 employees in October.
The official complaint is the latest response to Tesla’s surprise job losses in the first two weeks of October. The carmaker is in the process of firing 400 and 700 employees. The company states that employees were identified for termination after annual performance reviews. Former employees allege that the company laid off workers to cut costs. The UAW now claims that Tesla targeted pro-union workers for termination despite acceptable performance on the job. The filing with the NLRB alleges that the automaker intimidated pro-union employees, punished workers that work UAW logos, and fired workers for protected unionization efforts.
This is the latest salvo from the UAW against the automaker. The UAW has agitated for unionization at the company’s manufacturing plant since February when an employee, Joe Moran, alleged unsafe working conditions and harsh treatment at the Tesla factory. Tesla has resisted calls for unionization and argued that Moran was a paid shill to increase support for the union organizing.
In response to the complaint, Tesla stated that unions filed up to 20,000 Unfair Labor Practices last year as nothing more than organizing tactics. To be clear, Tesla’s counterargument is misleading. Just because unions launch 20,000 complaints per year does not mean the filings are incorrect—and Tesla was careful not to say that the complaint was a lie. It seems obvious to us that a factual complaint would be an effective organizing tactic, as unionization would be more appealing if working conditions were genuinely unfair.
The NLRB will review the complaint and, if it’s found to have merit, launch a formal investigation. Evidence is mounting that Tesla’s mass terminations had an ulterior motive in addition to identifying underperforming workers, or the company handled them so poorly that they alienated former employees, their families, and the UAW.