Tesla was recently accused of terminating Giga New York employees because they attempted to form a union. A blog post from the electric vehicle maker has explained that this was not the case.
In a recent filing with the US National Labor Relations Board, the Workers United union noted that Tesla laid off dozens of Giga New York employees “in retaliation for union activity and to discourage union activity.” The union also asked the labor board to pursue a federal court injunction “to prevent irreparable destruction of employee rights resulting from Tesla’s unlawful conduct.”
The workers who attempted to unionize asked for job security and more pay, as well as a say in the decision-making in Giga New York. The employees also aimed to curb factors that they claimed were harmful to their health, such as monitoring, metrics, and production pressure. The Workers United union also noted that the pressure was heavy for the Autopilot labeling team’s workers that some could not even take bathroom breaks.
In a blog post addressing the issue, Tesla noted that “there is a false allegation that Tesla terminated employees in response to a new union campaign.” While the electric vehicle maker admitted that some employees who were part of the Autopilot labeling team were indeed terminated, it was not due to the unionization attempt.
Tesla stated that it conducts performance review cycles for its employees every six months. If employees are not able to meet their performance expectations, they will be laid off from the company. Tesla noted that this review process is not unique to Giga New York. Employees from across the globe are subjected to it. The most recent performance review cycle was thus from July 2022 to December 2022.
On December 13, 2022, Tesla managers received communication about the review schedule. The message included information stating that exits for low-performing employees would begin in the week of February 12, 2023. About 4% of the Autopilot labeling team in Giga New York were exited as a result of the July 2022 to December 2022 review cycle. Tesla explained that the employees were not terminated without warning.
“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. Despite feedback, they did not demonstrate sufficient improvement,” Tesla noted, adding that the impacted employees were identified on February 3, 2023.
This date was well before Giga New York employees announced their unionization campaign. Tesla noted that it became aware of the employees’ unionization efforts approximately ten days later. The company learned in hindsight that one out of the 27 employees impacted by the performance review identified as part of the unionization campaign.
Tesla noted that Giga New York’s Autopilot labeling team has been growing over the last several months at an average of 10 employees a week. In the past six months, the team’s employee base grew 54% from 437 employees to 675 workers as of the start of this week. The electric vehicle maker also explained that its time monitoring system for image labeling was put in place to ease the use of its labeling software.
“Since its purpose is to calculate how long it takes to label an image, there is nothing to be gained by delaying bathroom breaks. The claim that Tesla pressures employees to do so is categorically false,” Tesla noted.
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