Complaint accuses Tesla of firing more than 30 workers after union effort was announced

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A group of Tesla workers in Buffalo, New York, have filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board accusing the electric carmaker of firing at least 30 workers in response to their union organizing efforts.

In a release, the group that calls itself Tesla Workers United, accuses Tesla and CEO Elon Musk of retaliating in direct response to the unionization drive, launched Feb. 14 at Tesla’s Buffalo Gigafactory 2. The affected workers are part of the Buffalo location’s autopilot group, where they ‘train’ Tesla’s artificial intelligence software by identifying images.

The group is asking for a federal injunction to protect the workers’ rights.

A Tesla representative could not be reached for comment.

The Tesla factory in Buffalo, N.Y., on Dec. 26, 2018.Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

The union drive is being spearheaded by a Rochester, New York-based unit of Workers United, which is an affiliate of the larger Service Employees International Union. Workers United is also the group that has been attempting to organize Starbucks locations.  

The NLRB has the power to order an employer to reinstate workers with back pay, though it cannot assess penalties. Tesla was cited in 2021 by the NLRB on accusations of ‘coercively interrogating’ and ‘threatening’ employees at its Fremont plant. The company was ordered to offer to reinstate a fired worker; Tesla has denied wrongdoing and is appealing the citation.

According to Tesla’s website, the Buffalo Gigafactory has created nearly 800 jobs, with plans to ultimately employ as many as 5,000.

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