A Tweet from Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been ruled illegal by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Of all the current Tesla Gigafactories, perhaps none have been surrounded by as much controversy as the Fremont plant. Most recently, the plant has been investigated for racial bias, originally stemming from a claim made by an African American employee at the facility. Now, only adding controversy to the California facility, Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s comments regarding its unionization efforts have been deemed illegal by a second court.
The ruling, initially reported by Reuters, upholds the previous ruling from the U.S. National Labor Relations Board, stating that Elon Musk’s comments regarding stock options for unionized employees were illegal.
Specifically, before being deleted as part of the initial ruling, Musk’s 2018 Tweet read:
“Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union … But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing?”
The tweet was issued in response to a UAW-sponsored unionization effort at the Fremont facility, though the Tesla facility has remained un-unionized since then.
In defense of the Tweet, Elon Musk argued that he was sharing an observation of other automakers, seeing as workers at other unionized locations do not receive stock options. Nonetheless, the court viewed the tweet as a valid threat. It noted, “Substantial evidence supports the NLRB’s conclusion that the tweet is an implied threat to end stock options as retaliation for unionization.”
Ironically, this is not the only anti-unionization case that Tesla is currently appealing, though the results of the second lawsuit have not yet been finalized. Last year, Tesla allegedly prevented workers from wearing shirts supporting a unionization effort at the Fremont plant. An initial ruling ruled against the automaker; Tesla is appealing the decision.
More recently, Elon Musk has called the UAW to hold a second unionization effort at the facility, with Elon Musk saying in 2022 that Tesla would not interfere with the action.
Our real challenge is Bay Area has negative unemployment, so if we don’t treat and compensate our (awesome) people well, they have many other offers and will just leave!
I’d like hereby to invite UAW to hold a union vote at their convenience. Tesla will do nothing to stop them.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 3, 2022
As Tesla grows its production capacity and workforce, it will likely face an increasing unionization effort, especially outside the United States, where union sentiments are typically stronger. Nonetheless, it remains unclear how Tesla will face unionization efforts in the future, but hopefully, workers and Tesla leadership can come to a peaceful settlement.
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