Tesla, Elon Musk broke labor laws, judge ruled

A U.S. labor law judge has ruled against Tesla and its Chief Executive Officer, Elon Musk, for violating and interfering in the rights of their employees to organize and unionize against the carmaker. Judge Amita Baman Tracy said that the company and its management had violated provisions of the National Labor Relations Act in 2017 and 2018. 

The ruling, pertaining to the complaint made by United Auto Workers union, said that Tesla has been threatening their employees in order to discourage them from joining the union and walk out on strike against the company. 

Earlier reports of the ruling have identified one incident cited in the complaint and referenced in the ruling. According to Reuters, one instance referenced in the ruling is a tweet made by Elon Musk that appears to be threatening the right of Tesla employees to unionize. 

In a tweet, Musk told an employee that while the company does not discourage unionizing, not paying union dues and keeping their company-held stocks are better options for the employees. 

“Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so [tomorrow] if they wanted. But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing?” Musk said in a tweet. “Our safety record is 2X better than when [the] plant was UAW & everybody already gets healthcare.”

The specific tweet was a response to another tweet made by a Twitter user who questioned about the reports that came out last year accusing Tesla of having poor workplace safety and of having anti-union management. In the past, Tesla has been a subject of complaints from their workers, who said that the company’s operation requires them to work long in a hazardous environment. The allegations have since been denied by Musk and Tesla. Amid their denial, many workers have pushed for union and strikes to fight for better working conditions. 

“Yellow is fine, got it. How about unions?” the Twitter user posted, tagging Elon Musk. 

For the court, the Tweets made by Musk is a threat to the right of the Tesla employees to unionize against the company. The tweet, the ruling said, is tantamount to Musk telling the employees that they could lose their company-paid stock options if they join a union.

As part of the ruling, the court instructs Musk and Tesla to call for a meeting at its California assembly plant where either Musk or his agent must disclose to their workers that the National Labor Relations Board has concluded that the company and its CEO broke the law and explain to them their labor rights. 

Furthermore, the court also ordered Tesla to reinstate and offer backpay to a pro-union employee and to revoke a warning issue to another one. 

Tesla nor Elon Musk has yet to release a public comment regarding the ruling, but Judge Amita Baman Tracy expects that the company will appeal the decision of the court nonetheless. 

“This will be appealed no matter what I decide,” the judge said in a statement while the trial was ongoing in Oakland sometime last year. 

If the company decides to do so, they can file their appeal to the NLRB members who are appointed by the president in Washington. In an earlier statement, the lawyer representing Tesla accuses members of the UAW to be running a smear campaign against the company in relation to the complaints they filed against its operations and executives. 

“This entire trial is an infomercial in an effort to place Mr. Musk and the company in a negative light,” Mark Ross, a Tesla attorney, said at the start of the proceedings on June 2018.

Tesla is not the only carmaker that the UAW is accusing of poor safety policies and abusive working conditions for its employees and workers. Last week, employees led by the UAW had picketed outside the headquarters of General Motors to protest against the alleged inhumane working condition in the company. 

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