Society

Union-Associated Workers Say Tesla Is Intimidating Them

| by Sheena Vasani

Tesla employees participating in union activities are accusing the electric car manufacturer of unlawfully intimidating them.

The United Automobile Workers union filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board alleging Tesla coerced and surveilled those workers trying to persuade colleagues to form a union. They say the workers were trying to hand out information about the union organizing efforts, worker's rights, confidentiality agreements and more, CNBC reports.

Tesla is accused of breaking the law after "instructing employees they were not allowed to pass out any literature unless it was pre-approved by the employer."

The company's confidentiality agreement is of particular concern to unions and captured national attention in February.

California lawmakers condemned the confidentiality agreement for being "overbroad."  Workers, for example, are forbidden to write about their work in any social media, blog or book.

"You can't fix problems if you're not allowed to talk about them," said Tesla employee Michael Sanchez. "The confidentiality agreement we were required to sign went too far. We should have the right to distribute information to our co-workers without intimidation."

Sixty local companies wrote a letter to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, urging him to change the confidentiality agreement, reports East Bay Times.

"The workers feel they do not have a mechanism to discuss problems,” said Derecka Mehrens, co-founder of Silicon Valley Rising, a worker advocacy group. "A union, fundamentally, provides workers a voice."

"While we respect the need for Tesla to protect critical information about its products and technology, this agreement fails to acknowledge the protected rights of workers to communicate to each other and to the public about their working conditions, wages or other critical worker justice issues," the groups said in a statement.

Tesla refused to change the agreement.

A spokesperson also added that the confidentiality agreement is like any other tech company's, and "has nothing to do with the rights of workers to openly discuss organizing efforts."

Meanwhile, Musk slammed those saying working conditions at Tesla were poor as "disingenuous," saying it was an attack and ploy to unionize Tesla's factory in Fremont, California.

"The forces arrayed against us are many and incredibly powerful," Musk wrote in an email to employees, BuzzFeed reports "This is David vs. Goliath if David were six inches tall! Only by being smarter, faster and working well as a tightly integrated team do we have any chance of success."

He continued, speaking of his respect for his workers and promised new perks.

"There will also be little things that come along like free frozen yogurt stands scattered around the factory and my personal favorite: a Tesla electric pod car roller coaster (with an optional loop the loop route, of course!) that will allow fast and fun travel throughout our Fremont campus, dipping in and out of the factory and connecting all the parking lots," Musk wrote. "It’s going to get crazy good."

Sources: CNBC, East Bay Times, BuzzFeed / Photo credit: Maurzio Pesce/Wikimedia Commons

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