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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Tesla fired Buffalo workers seeking to organize, union says

A complaint charged that Tesla fired workers over their plans to unionize.

By Jack Ewing and Noam Scheiber

Tesla fired at least 18 employees, including several leaders of a unionization campaign, a day after they announced plans to organize a Tesla plant in Buffalo, New York, workers said in a filing to the National Labor Relations Board.

Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, has been blunt in his opposition to unions, and the company has a reputation for using hardball tactics against union organizers. In 2021, the National Labor Relations Board found that Tesla had illegally fired a worker involved in organizing at the company’s car factory in Fremont, California, and that Musk had illegally threatened workers with the loss of stock options if they unionized.

“I strongly feel this is in retaliation to the committee announcement and it’s shameful,” Arian Berek, a member of the Buffalo organizing committee, said in a statement. Berek said she was fired after returning to work after a bout with COVID-19 and bereavement leave.

The Rochester branch of the Workers United union, in a “charge against employer” dated Wednesday, told the labor relations board that it sought an injunction to block the firings, which it called unlawful. Tesla “terminated these individuals in retaliation for union activity and to discourage union activity,” the filing said. The firings were reported earlier by Bloomberg News.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Buffalo factory makes solar panels and components for charging equipment, according to Tesla’s website, and has about 800 workers who help develop driver-assistance software.

The firings appear likely to complicate Tesla’s relationship with President Joe Biden, who on Wednesday praised the company’s decision to open up a portion of its charging network to owners of other electric vehicles.

The move seemed to represent an improvement in the relationship between Biden and Musk, who had complained that the administration paid insufficient attention to Tesla during its push for electric vehicle subsidies.

But Biden has also cast himself as a strong promoter of unions, and has been critical of companies that take what he considers to be anti-union actions. A White House spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Tesla firings.

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