Tesla Coerced, Silenced Pro-Union Workers, Labor Board Alleges

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By Hassan A. Kanu and Jaclyn Diaz

Tesla Motor Corp. is the target of a National Labor Relations Board complaint after the labor board found merit to employee allegations that the company is mounting an anti-union campaign against workers. The employees are trying to organize for collective bargaining over their salaries and other employment terms.

NLRB Regional Director Valerie Hardy-Mahoney’s Aug. 31 complaint on behalf of three individual workers and the United Automobile Workers union is an indication that the board believes the company may have violated the National Labor Relations Act. The act generally prohibits employers from interfering with workers who are acting collectively for “mutual aid or protection,” which could mean starting a union or organizing a group to address pay differentials, for example.

“As we approach Labor Day weekend, there’s a certain irony in just how far the UAW has strayed from the original mission of the American labor movement, which once advocated so nobly for the rights of workers and is the reason we recognize this important holiday,” a Tesla spokesperson told Bloomberg BNA in a Sept. 1 email. The allegations are “entirely without merit,” the company said. “We will obviously be responding as part of the NLRB process.”

Tesla management at the Fremont, Calif., plant allegedly ordered employees who passed out leaflets encouraging coworkers to unionize off the premises and threatened to fire them, the board alleged. Tesla interrogated workers about their union involvement and made efforts to stop them from discussing organizing with their coworkers, according to the complaint.

The company also required workers to sign confidentiality agreements prohibiting them from taking any photos or videos of Tesla facilities, discussing work on social media, or disclosing information about the company without permission, according to the complaint. One employee was prohibited from taking a picture of the agreement during a one-on-one meeting, the board said. The document was eventually leaked.

Union officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 14.

The board under the Obama administration prioritized the issue of overly broad employer policies, and held in some cases that far-reaching confidentiality agreements violate the NLRA. The incoming board officials that President Donald Trump’s administration has nominated are expected to shift course.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jaclyn Diaz at jDiaz@bna.com; Hassan A. Kanu at hkanu@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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