Tesla Fires Dozens Of Employees Who Were Trying To Unionize
Tesla has fired more than 30 workers in Buffalo, New York who were trying to form the electric automaker’s first union in the U.S., according to a new report from Bloomberg News. The workers have filed a complaint with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board since it’s illegal to fire workers simply for trying to form a union.
Workers at the Buffalo, New York facility announced a union drive on Tuesday and many of the people involved in the effort were among those fired on Wednesday, according to the Wall Street Journal. Most of those fired were hourly employees working on Tesla’s Autopilot software, which ostensibly allows the electric vehicles to drive without the assistance of the driver.
Tesla Workers United delivered a letter to the company’s management on Tuesday, announcing the union was being formed to address health and safety issues, along with a drive for better wages and benefits.
“We believe that by having a union at Tesla, we will further the mission of sustainability and foster a progressive environment for us all,” the letter said, according to the Associated Press.
Tesla employs roughly 2,000 people at its Buffalo facility, with about 800 dedicated to the Autopilot feature, according to the Wall Street Journal. Tesla employs about 128,000 people around the world, with other major facilities in California, China, and Germany.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk is notoriously hostile to unions, most likely because non-union employees in the U.S. are paid less than employees who are in a union. Workers who aren’t in a union make just 83% of the wages that their unionized counterparts make, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
The National Labor Relations Board ruled that Musk violated the law by trying to discourage workers from unionizing in Fremont, California. The Board made Musk delete a tweet from 2018 that read, “Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues and give up stock options for nothing? Our safety record is 2X better than when plant was UAW & everybody already gets healthcare.”
The auto industry aside, recent years have seen a major push for unionization in sectors that haven’t been unionized, including service and retail jobs. Starbucks, for example, has fought efforts by employees to unionize, even closing several stores to thwart the union drive, but more than 200 locations have voted to unionize since 2021.
I reached out to both Tesla and a union organizer who has been working on unionizing the Buffalo facility. I’ll update this article if I hear back from either party, though Tesla dissolved its press team in 2020 so I’m not going to hold my breath on that one.