Tesla has fought off allegations it illegally terminated dozens of New York employees in response to a unionization campaign, a setback for organizing efforts at the Elon Musk-led carmaker.
A regional director for the U.S. National Labor Relations Board has dismissed a case against Tesla filed by the Workers United union in February, Kayla Blado, a spokesperson for the agency, said by email Monday.
Workers United had said Tesla fired a group of employees in Buffalo, N.Y., working on the carmaker’s Autopilot feature the day after some workers announced a union campaign. The union framed the dismissals as retaliation against organizing efforts.
Tesla, the world’s most valuable automaker, represents an enticing but elusive target for organized labor. Musk has long been a vocal opponent of unions and in the past has vigorously pushed back on efforts to organize the company’s plants.
Workers United said it will ask the NLRB general counsel’s Office of Appeals to reconsider the dismissed allegations.
“I think when the general counsel’s office digs into the case then they’ll see that it’s a clear pattern of retaliation against a unionizing group of workers and clearly a violation of labor law,” said Jaz Brisack, the organizing director of Workers United’s New York chapter. “I’m confident that the Tesla workers will finally see the justice that they deserve, and we as a union will have their backs the entire way.”
The Austin, Texas-based carmaker didn’t respond to requests for comment about the NLRB’s recent conclusions, but has previously denied wrongdoing. In a February blog post, Tesla said that the Buffalo employees were selected for termination prior to the union announcement, as part of a routine performance-review process.
The Buffalo NLRB regional director concluded that Tesla violated the law in other ways, including by maintaining workplace rules that violate federal law, Blado wrote in Monday’s email. The agency is referring to Tesla’s ban on making audio recordings, according to Workers United attorney Michael Dolce.
Absent a settlement, the NLRB will issue a complaint against Tesla to be considered by an agency judge, Blado said.
During past union efforts by the United Auto Workers at the company’s plant in Fremont, Calif., the NLRB ruled that Tesla illegally fired an activist and Musk threatened workers on social media. A panel of U.S. appeals court judges upheld the NLRB ruling, but a larger group of judges there is reviewing that case.
NLRB prosecutors have also accused other Musk companies of violating workers’ rights. Earlier this year, his social media company X, formerly Twitter, settled with a former employee who a regional director had concluded was illegally fired for protesting a return-to-office mandate.
Musk’s aerospace company Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, also settled a claim that it illegally tried to stifle an employee’s speech.