A couple of weeks ago, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that a tweet that Tesla CEO Elon Musk posted in 2018 could be seen as an attempt to derail employees’ efforts to unionize. Now Tesla is appealing that ruling.
In the tweet, Musk said, “Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing? Our safety record is 2X better than when plant was UAW & everybody already gets healthcare.”
The ruling ordered Elon Musk to delete the tweet and required Tesla to hold meetings to educate employees about their rights and revoke a ban on discussing the possibility of unionization in its car park without company permission. Tesla is also asking for a reconsideration of a ruling that the company violated labor regulations when it fired a pro-union employee.
Employees had been pushing for a chapter of the United Auto Workers (UAW), the biggest automakers’ union in the United States. Musk had previously blistered the UAW for abandoning the Fremont factory while it was still managed by Toyota and General Motors as part of a joint venture. Tesla took over the plant in 2010.
Employees have also accused Tesla of firing employees for staying home during the pandemic despite its official position that they could. Tesla has also previously won a legal case in which a former employee leaked documents to the press that he claimed would demonstrate unsafe working conditions at the Tesla factory in Nevada. Tesla says that the former employee tried to make conditions out to be worse than they actually were.
Tesla is also currently fighting a lawsuit brought by an investor claiming that Tesla has failed to retain a lawyer who can provide a buffer between Elon Musk and his Twitter account. Musk has become somewhat known for his ill-considered tweets and public fights with other individuals on Twitter. His tweets have previously run afoul with regulators and cost him his position as Chairman of the Board for Tesla.
Even without the frequent legal scraps with former employees and Tesla’s current appeal of the National Labor Relations Board ruling, Elon Musk does have a reputation for being a demanding boss who is very particular about who he hires. He has previously been known to poach “employees of the month” for yogurt stands at his companies’ facilities. Musk has also previously denied that he reprimanded an employee for attending the birth of his child, an incident that was described in author Ashlee Vance’s biography of Elon Musk. (According to him, he is also totally not a Samurai.)
The tweet in question in the current dispute with the National Labor Relations Board has not yet been deleted and is unlikely to be until after the appeal process has played out. It is unlikely that Tesla’s factories are unionized yet, considering that the company is so strongly anti-union. Unlike rival and Blue Origin boss Jeff Bezos, Musk has not yet been called on the carpet by Congress for the anti-union stance, though. So far, he has only gotten into legal and regulatory scraps over it.