‘Stand up Tesla’: UAW uses layoffs to make unionization progress at Tesla

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The United Auto Worker (UAW), a powerful auto worker union in the US, is using Tesla’s recent layoffs to make unionization progress at the automaker.

The UAW unsuccessful pushed to unionize workers at Tesla’s Fremont factory and other locations.

Amid that last push in 2017-2019, Tesla fought back the effort with what the union considered to be illegal tactics.

They filed a complaint with the National Labor Relation Board (NLRB), which eventually sided with the union and found that Tesla violated labor laws.

The violations included preventing the distribution of union materials, terminating employees due to union support, and, finally, a specific tweet posted by Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

The tweet in question stated that Musk is fine with Tesla workers unionizing, but he believes that they wouldn’t because they would have to “pay union dues and give stock options for nothing”:

This has been perceived as a threat that Tesla would remove employee stock options if employees unionize.

The NLRB doesn’t have any authority to impose punitive damages on Tesla or executives, but it ordered a cease and desist of those activities, which included the removal of that tweet.

The ruling was upheld by the court, but earlier this year, Tesla successfully managed to bring the case to the Fifth Circuit court.

In the meantime, the UAW had a great victory outside of Tesla. The union led a successful strike against the Big Three that led to important gains for its members working for Ford, GM, and Chrysler.

Following the victory last year, the union wasn’t shy about setting its sight on Tesla and other non-unionized US automakers.

Lately, Tesla gave UAW some ammunition by implementing massive rounds of layoffs that cut between 15 and 20% of its entire workforce.

The way the layoffs were conducted also didn’t sit well with many Tesla employees as the automaker fired people by sending them a personal email halfway through their shift or during their commute to work.

Some were let go right after they moved for the job. As we previously reported, this situation has affected morale at Tesla.

Now, UAW appears to be taking advantage of the situation to increase support for unionization at Tesla Gigafactory Texas. This flyer was spotted in a Gigafactory Texas bathroom:

It reads:

Tesla’s layoff of thousands of employees is brutal, unfair, and unnecessary. Our hearts go out to our affected co-workers whose lives have been suddenly upended.

Share how Tesla layoffs are affecting you and your coworkers

This moment is a call to action for those of us who want to build a more sustainable workplace at Tesla. Without a union, Tesla has free rein to take this kind of brutal action whenever they find it convenient. That’s why workers at Tesla and across the auto industry are forming unions.

Unions are workers sticking together to achieve success and stability, providing for our families and building for OUR future. With a union, we can negotiate stronger rights and protections in an enforceable contract, instead of the company having total control over our working conditions and our lives.

Take action now by asking coworkers to sign an authorization card to form a union at Tesla. Workers can sign a card by going to teslastandup.org or scanning the QR code below:

The group is trying to get more people at Tesla to sign an authorization card, which is one of the steps toward pushing for a unionization vote.

Electrek’s Take

UAW has had many corruption scandals that have greatly affected its credibility over the years, but its latest battles against automakers in the US have helped a lot on that front.

On the other hand, Tesla has eroded its relationship with employees recently with layoffs and a reduction in compensation, all while Tesla’s board fights like hell to make sure its CEO gets the biggest compensation package of all time.

If you want your workers to think about unionizing, this seems to be the perfect playbook to follow.

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