Tesla Firings May Impact NLRB Investigation

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

Union-led protests against Tesla’s firing of between 400 to 1000 manufacturing employees may impact a labor complaint filed by the National Labor Relation Board (NLRB) against Tesla’s labor practices on August 31.

A Tuesday rally staged by the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) at Tesla’s Fremont, California assembly plant featured about 50 workers and community organizers holding signs reading “Driving a Fair Future” and delivering a letter to Tesla management complaining about safety and pay, plus inferring workers were terminated for supporting unionization.

The protestors’ letter stated: “Among the fired workers are people who have raised their voices with concerns about health and safety risks, fair pay and the right to organize free from intimidation, and we are concerned that these workers may have been unjustly fired for doing so.” The letter added, “We are calling for reinstatement of these workers and fair treatment for all employees.”

Tesla responded that it tries to be fair and just in human resources policies, but the recent firings were the result of employees receiving poor performance scores in annual reviews:

“No one at Tesla has ever or will ever have any action taken against them based on their feelings on unionization. Some employees recently left Tesla, but what has not been reported is that a much larger number – 17% of our employees – were promoted, and almost half of those promotions were within our factory in Fremont. We are a company where people can be promoted as quickly as their talents and work allow. It is not unexpected that union supporters would protest any decision we make, including this one, and we respect their right to do so.”

Tesla has been the focus of a UAW unionization efforts for over a year. The recent firings closely follow Tesla’s September 14 response to the NLRB complaint that they had done nothing wrong.

Tesla workers at the Fremont plant told the Silicon Valley.com blog that the terminations affected between 400 and 700 employees, while UAW organizers claim the number is as high as 1,000 workers. While Tesla employs 33,000 workers worldwide, it only employs about 10,000 workers at Fremont. The firings amount to between 4 to 10 percent of the workers.

A fired worker filed a WARN Act lawsuit on October 25 claiming the Tesla firings violated a California state law, because they were a mass layoff in disguise. The law requires that the company give 60 days notice before firing 50 or more workers in a 30-day period. Tesla replied that the law does not apply, because the firings were for performance.

The firing turmoil notices also hit as Tesla as had leaked last weekend that the company will build a second manufacturing plant in Shanghai, China’s free trade zone. Tesla exported 13 percent, or about $1 billion, of its vehicle production to China last year.

Breitbart News reported earlier this month that Tesla had increased its negative cash burn by $13 million a day as the company’s Fremont plant tried to ramp up Model 3 production from 200 cars for the month to 10,000 per week. The Market Watch analysts’ survey reveals that Tesla is expected to report a loss of $2.28 a share in this quarter, versus adjusted profit of 71 cents a share last year.

But Tesla seems to have addressed the issue by filing with the SEC over the weekend that the company expanded its bank warehouse borrowing capacity by $500 million, from $600 million to $1.1 billion.


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