By Chris Katje
A report that workers for Tesla Inc in New York were fired after attempting to form a union is false, the automaker said in a Thursday statement. Here are the key details.
A report from the Union Workers United accused Tesla of firing dozens of workers in Buffalo, New York a day after the workers were looking to unionize.
A report from Bloomberg cited a complaint by the organizers and said the company fired employees “in retaliation for union activity and to discourage union activity.”
Union Workers United urged the National Labor Relations Board to step in on the matter.
Tesla issued a response Thursday.
“There is a false allegation that Tesla terminated employees in response to a new union campaign,” Tesla said.
Tesla said that the firings were in response to performance reviews completed every six months.
“Employees receive a performance rating from 1 to 5 in each cycle that helps them calibrate their work with the expectations of their job. In the worst case, if an employee fails to meet their performance expectations they will be let go.”
Tesla said the review process is not localized to Buffalo, New York and happens in all its global markets.
The company said the most recent performance review cycle was July 2022 through December 2022. Exits for low performers on the reviews were planned to start the week of Feb. 12, according to the company.
“Approximately 4% of the employees on the Autopilot labeling team in Buffalo were exited as a result of this performance review cycle. The employees let go as part of this process received prior feedback on their poor performance from their managers over the course of the review period.”
Tesla said the employees to be let go of were identified on Feb. 3, 2023, which was ahead of the announced union campaign.
The NRLB order the reinstatement of employment for a fire worker, Richard Ortiz, in 2021. Tesla faced allegations of retaliation of unions at the Buffalo plant, according to The Guardian.
“Unionizing will further accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy because it will give us a voice in our workplace and in the goals we set for ourselves to accomplish,” said a letter to management announcing the union campaign.
The company said one of the 27 employees impacted by the exits was part of the union campaign.
Unionization of workers has become a big topic for several public companies, including Tesla, Starbucks Corporation and Apple Inc.
In 2021, Starbucks saw a chain in Buffalo, New York vote to unionize. The effort was led by Starbucks Workers United. Several other locations would go on to unionize.
Apple saw workers in a Maryland store unionize in 2022, a first for the company. The tech giant has come under fire for potential anti-union efforts in recent months.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been critical of unions in the past and hinted that the company not supporting unions has been a sore subject with the White House.
“I don’t like the UAW,” Musk said in a past interview, alleging the UAW launched a smear campaign against Tesla.
The UAW lost “a bit of wind in its sales” after former presidents Dennis Williams and Gary Jones were sentenced to prison as part of a multiyear corruption probe, Musk has said.
While Musk isn’t a fan of unions, he said that interested parties could come and try to get Tesla workers to unionize.
“Tesla has the highest pay in the auto industry.”
Musk said California is a pro-union state, but the UAW was never able to get people to vote for Tesla to unionize in the state.
Produced in association with Benzinga.
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