Judge rules Tesla's anti-union efforts violated labor laws
The dispute centers around Elon Musk's Twitter posts and firing of a pro-union employee.
A federal administrative law judge has ruled against Tesla in a dispute over the company's efforts to resist the United Auto Workers' unionization efforts.
The UAW-backed "Fair Future at Tesla" campaign ramped up in 2017 as organizing committee member Jose Moran published a blog post about alleged unsafe working conditions at the Fremont factory. The accusations were shared to other employees and quickly attracted national media attention.
CEO Elon Musk and chief people officer Gabriel Toledano met with Moran and promised to address any safety concerns. The executives allegedly made "coercive statements," arguing that the UAW "would not give them a voice," and began enforcing a uniform policy to prevent workers from wearing pro-UAW shirts on the job, according to the ruling.
The company fired pro-union worker Richard Ortiz for allegedly lying about his source for an image of an anti-union employee's picture that was posted in a private Facebook group created by pro-UAW staff.
Judge Amita Baman Tracy ruled that Tesla violated federal labor laws by firing Ortiz, noting that an employer cannot terminate an employee for "lying in response" to questions about union organization efforts. The company has been ordered to reinstate Ortiz and provide back-pay compensation.
The judge declared that Tesla's security staff illegally ordered pro-union workers to leave the property while they were distributing leaflets in the parking lot. Elon Musk was also singled out for a May 2018 Twitter post that suggested workers would lose stock options if they unionize, which the court views as an illegal threat to reduce compensation if workers vote to form a union.
The UAW has struggled to expand its footprint beyond the Detroit Big Three factories located in the Midwest. A unionization push at Volkswagen's Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant narrowly failed to gain majority support in a 2014 vote and again earlier this year. The UAW has been embroiled in an ever-expanding corruption scandal, eroding the organization's perceived credibility as it attempts to gain a foothold at Tesla and other non-union automotive factories across the country.