Earlier this week, it was reported that Tesla workers in the company's Buffalo, New York Autopilot facility had sent a letter to CEO Elon Musk stating their attention to unionize. Now, organizers at the same location are accusing the company of illegally terminating employees "in retaliation for union activity and to discourage union activity," Bloomberg has reported.
In a filing with the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Workers United union accused Tesla of attempting to discourage its organizing activities. It has asked for a federal court injunction to "prevent irreparable destruction of employee rights resulting from Tesla’s unlawful conduct." Several of the employees let go had been involved in labor discussion, and one was the member of an organizing committee.
"This is a form of collective retaliation... designed to terrify everyone about potential consequences of them organizing, as well as to attempt to cull the herd," Workers United organizer Jaz Brisack told Bloomberg. (Engadget has contacted Tesla for comment, but doesn't anticipate a reply given the company no longer has a dedicated press office.)
Employees involved in the campaign are in charge of labeling data for Tesla's Autopilot technology. The group is asking for better pay, job security and a work environment that reduces production pressures. The group previously said that Tesla engages in keystroke monitoring to see how long they spend on tasks, and shut down an internal chatroom used for airing grievances.
Following the earlier report, Tesla issued a directive to "protect the confidentiality, integrity and security of all Tesla business information." However, one employee said the terminations are galvanizing, rather than intimidating workers. "It's pretty clear the message they're sending," said Sara Constatino. "And it's really I think backfiring on them." The NLRB will now investigate the claims and could prosecute them before a judge if it finds merit.