Feds Hit Tesla With Complaint For Allegedly Violating Workers’ Rights

Months after some Tesla employees interested accused Tesla of illegally intimidating them, the National Labor Relations Board has taken their side.

Yesterday, the Oakland branch of the NLRB ordered Tesla to respond to workers’ complaints, after finding merit in claims from three factory employees who say they were coerced and intimidated after expressing interest in unionizing, reports The Mercury News.

Union efforts

In April, the United Automobile Workers union filed four charges with NRLB accusing Tesla of illegally surveilling workers, and coercing employees who were trying to spread the word about the union drive at Tesla’s Fremont, CA, factory.

In its new complaint, the NLRB also claims that security guards asked workers who were handing out pamphlets to show their ID badges and ordered them leave the premises.

Also noted in the complaint is Tesla’s confidentiality agreement, reports Buzzfeed, which the NLRB says prohibits workers from sharing information about their jobs with the media, or on social media, and forbids forwarding work emails to personal accounts. In January, California lawmakers warned [PDF] Tesla that this agreement was “overly-broad” and appears to violate state laws that forbid employers from having policies that prohibit employees from discussing wages and working conditions, or from retailiating against employees for doing so.

The agreement “has resulted in a chilling effect on workers’ ability to engage in protected activity,” the letter notes, asking Tesla to revise its policy.

The complaint names three Tesla managers or supervisors who “interrogated” workers about union activities or otherwise tried to keep them from discussing the union.

To that end, the NLRB says it has determined that Tesla “has been interfering with, restraining and coercing employees in the exercise of their rights.”

Tesla must respond by Sept. 19, and then an administrative law judge will review the case at a hearing scheduled for November.

The workers who first filed charges against Tesla are trying to unionize, with an effort called Fair Future at Tesla that claims Fremont factory employees work too many hours and in dangerous working conditions.

“I joined others in filing the charges for myself, but I also did it for my coworkers — they need to know we have rights, and that we can speak up about what we are seeing and experiencing,” said Tesla production associate Jonathan Galescu in a statement. “I want to thank the NLRB for hearing us and the UAW for having our backs as we continue our fight to address the issues on the shop floor and form our union.”

Tesla responds

Tesla says the allegations are without merit, taking aim at what it calls an ongoing “publicity campaign” by UAW.

“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 filings that are meant only to generate headlines,” the company said in a statement. “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.”

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