Tesla fired more than 30 employees who work at its factory in Buffalo, New York, in retaliation for union organizing, according to a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board.
The firings and complaint were first reported by Bloomberg.
Tesla Workers United, a group of Tesla employees who work as data labelers on the Autopilot team at the company’s Buffalo plant, announced Tuesday plans to organize a union. The workers said they’re organizing for job security as well as better pay and working conditions with Workers United, the same group that helped form the country’s first unionized Starbucks.
Dozens of those employees were fired Wednesday, a day after their union efforts became public. In the complaint, the workers said they were terminated in retaliation for union activity and to discourage union activity. The union organizers are “seeking injunctive relief to prevent irreparable destruction of employee rights resulting from Tesla’s unlawful conduct,” the complaint says.
Tesla Workers United, in a statement emailed to TechCrunch, said it “wants to make their stance clear: These firings are unacceptable. The expectations required of us are unfair, unattainable, ambiguous and ever changing. For our CEO, Elon Musk, to fire 30 workers and announce his $2 billion charity donation on the same day is despicable. We stand as one.”
The workers said they also received an email Wednesday evening updating them on a new policy that prohibits employees from recording workplace meetings without all participants’ permission. Tesla Workers United said the policy violates federal labor law and also flouts New York’s one-party consent law to record conversations.
“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,” Sara Costantino, current Tesla employee and organizing committee member, said in a statement.
The workers trying to organize are part of the data annotation team working on Autopilot. Until last summer, Tesla had hundreds of data annotation employees working on the Autopilot team in San Mateo, California and Buffalo, New York. The San Mateo office had a headcount of 276. In June, the company laid off 195 staffers at the San Mateo office and shut down the location. About 81 workers were supposed to be relocated to another office.
The remaining data annotation employees, who label images to support the company’s Autopilot advanced driver assistance system, work at the Buffalo, New York plant.
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