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Elon Musk’s Tesla Targeted By UAW And NLRB

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On the heels of a major election loss at Nissan in Canton, Mississippi, the United Auto Workers (UAW) union has shifted focus to another car manufacturer in which it has no current foothold: Tesla. The UAW has been attempting to unionize workers at Tesla’s since the beginning of this year, but it has been unsuccessful in garnering enough interest to petition a vote.

 

So what do you do if you are the UAW and you can’t win over the employees? File charges against the company with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), of course, alleging the employer is unlawfully coercing employees to oppose the union.

 

The UAW and three employees filed NLRB charges in April against Tesla alleging the company has unlawfully “interrogated” employees about union activity and prevented union leafleting on the company’s premises. The NLRB investigated and believes there may be some merit to the claims; the board issued a formal complaint against the company on Aug. 31.

 

Tesla issued the following statement vehemently denying the charges:

 

“As we approach Labor Day weekend, there’s a certain irony in just how far the UAW has strayed from the original mission of the American labor movement, which once advocated so nobly for the rights of workers and is the reason we recognize this important holiday. Faced with declining membership, an overwhelming loss at a Nissan plant earlier this month, corruption charges that were recently leveled against union leaders who misused UAW funds, and failure to gain traction with our employees, it’s no surprise the union is feeling pressured to continue its publicity campaign against Tesla.  For seven years, the UAW has used every tool in its playbook: misleading and outright false communications, unsolicited and unwelcomed visits to the homes of our employees, attempts to discredit Tesla publicly in the media, and now another tactic that has been used in every union campaign since the beginning of time – baseless [unfair labor practice] filings that are meant only to generate headlines. These allegations, which have been filed by the same contingent of union organizers who have been so outspoken with media, are entirely without merit. We will obviously be responding as part of the NLRB process.”

 

Very interesting development heading into Labor Day weekend. We’ll track this case and keep you updated.

 

David Pryzbylski

Recently recognized as one of the top under-40 labor lawyers in the nation by Law360, David J. Pryzbylski’s interest in labor relations began early in high school, having grown up next to several of the largest steel mills in the world. Today, David is a Partner in Barnes & Thornburg LLP’s Labor & Employment Department. Building on his interest in labor relations, he concentrates a large portion of his practice on assisting employers with traditional labor matters, including collective bargaining; work stoppages; arbitrations; union avoidance training and strategies; union representation elections; unfair labor practice charges; contract administration; and various other labor relations issues.

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