Tesla reportedly did not allow employees to wear pro-union clothing, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) said, ruling the automaker broke labor laws. Tesla, in reality, required production workers to wear the company uniform, which is suggested for safety and quality control reasons.
Tesla has long held a stance that it operates more beneficially to its employees in a non-labor setting, and while CEO Elon Musk has been openly critical of unions, he has encouraged union groups to hold a vote at company facilities. No labor group has ever accepted this offer.
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However, Tesla is now reportedly in hot water with the NLRB as it violated labor laws by not allowing company employees to wear “pro-union shirts,” Bloomberg is reporting. Chairman Lauren McFerran said that, after a 3-2 ruling by the agency, Tesla is officially in violation of labor rules, which encourages the “critical form of protected communication.”
The three voters in the NLRB said that Tesla’s encouragement of employees to wear the company uniform violated the 1935 National Labor Relations Act. Tesla argued that its dress code was meant to keep clothing from damaging cars during the production process. Tesla maintained that employees were free to display union insignia while working.
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In 2018, Tesla employees testified that managers told employees that they could not wear shirts supporting the UAW. Other employees wore various t-shirts, including sports team apparel, without being spoken to. The ruling in the case by the NLRB today will require Tesla to change its policy to allow any employee to wear a union shirt as long as it is black like other Tesla employee apparel.
Republican members of the NLRB said the decision “effectively declares illegitimate any employer uniform policy or dress code that prohibits employees from substituting union apparel for required clothing.”
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