Wall Street Times

Tesla union in uproar after employees were fired

Tesla union Layoffs have increased since late 2022 at a number of significant enterprises across several industries.

Notwithstanding the thousands or maybe tens of thousands of layoffs that had been officially announced, some Tesla employees recently lost their employment.

But, we find it strange that the 30 sacked workers had only lately launched an attempt to organize a Tesla union.

The Tesla union, Tesla Workers United, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board saying that the supporters had been fired improperly.

The complaint

According to the Tesla union complaint, 18 employees were fired for taking part in union activities.

The decision to terminate the employees was seen as a means of stifling union operations.

Yet, a statement from the Tesla union claims that more than 30 employees were let go.

In addition, it said the dismissals took place after this week’s launch of the Tesla union organizing drive.

Union efforts

On Tuesday, Tesla workers in New York announced that they will start organizing.

In a letter to management, they declared their desire to join Workers United Upstate New York as a union.

They would become the first US-based automaker to avoid unionization at US factories as well as the first Tesla union as a result of the unionization.

The company’s CEO, Elon Musk, has been vocal in his opposition to unions, attracting the attention of the National Labor Relations Board in a 2018 tweet.

He was instructed to delete the tweet that stated stock options would be lost if employees joined a union.

“We believe unionizing will give us a voice in our workplace that we feel has been ignored to this point,” said the Tesla workers on Tuesday.

“We are only asking for a seat in the car that we helped build.”

The Service Employees International Union and Starbucks Workers United pledged their support to the Buffalo workforce in the meantime.

Almost 200 Starbucks outlets were organized by Starbucks Workers United in more than a year.

Buffalo also served as the site of the Starbucks union’s first victory.

The employees

Tesla’s Autopilot system benefited from the fired employees’ classification of the collected data.

“I feel blind sided,” said Arian Berek, one of the employees fired.

“I got Covid and was out of the office, then I had to take a bereavement leave. I returned to work, was told I was exceeding expectations and then Wednesday came along.”

“I strongly feel this is in retaliation to the committee announcement and it’s shameful.”

Read also: Ford EV productions halted after fire issue

The team’s work was initially praised by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who referred to the team’s product as the “Holy Grail” of the company’s autonomous driving technology.

“We’re getting quite good at auto labeling,” said Musk in 2021.

“The trainers train the training system and then the system auto labels the data and then the human laborers just need to look at the labeling to confirm that it is correct and perhaps make the edits.”

Unfair expectations

Supporters of the Tesla union continue to reject productivity requirements despite the accolades.

These are the expectations as they have been described:

  • Unfair
  • Unattainable
  • Ambiguous
  • Ever-changing

Some who support the union are also against Tesla, which allegedly monitors keystrokes made by workers to gauge their performance.

Sara Constantino, a member of the organizing committee and a Tesla employee, expressed her annoyance in the union’s statement, saying:

“We’re angry. This won’t slow us down. This won’t stop us. They want us to be scared, but I think they just started a stampede. We can do this. But I believe we will do this.”

Instead of making cars, the Buffalo plant specialized on labeling for Autopilot.

Moreover, the plant produces solar panels and related products.

Tesla & unions

In the past, Tesla was charged with firing union supporters from the California facility where workers build cars.

Nevertheless, in California, where attempts at organizing were failed, the union’s request to hold employee voting was rejected.

Tesla debunked allegations that the business had dismissed employees as a result of their union involvement in a blog post that was published on Thursday.

Instead, the company cited poor performance reports.

“The impacted employees were identified on February 3, 2023, which was well before the union campaign was announced,” the post said.

“We became aware of organizing activities approximately ten days later. We learned in hindsight that one out of the 27 impacted employees [was] officially identified as part of the union campaign. This exercise pre-dated any union campaign.”

Image source: New York Times