Tesla reportedly fires dozens of Buffalo employees the day after workers announced unionization plan

The Workers United union has filed a complaint to the NLRB claiming Tesla fired employees 'in retaliation for union activity and to discourage union activity.'


Updated February 16, 2023 at 7:24 p.m. PT: Tesla has released a statement in response to the report of the company allegedly firing workers in Buffalo, New York the day after employees announced intentions to unionize. Tesla's statement, seen in-full below, is titled "In Response to False Allegations":

There is a false allegation that Tesla terminated employees in response to a new union campaign. These are the facts behind the event:

  • Tesla conducts performance review cycles every six months. Employees receive a performance rating from 1 to 5 in each cycle that helps them calibrate their work with the expectations of their job. In the worst case, if an employee fails to meet their performance expectations they will be let go.
  • This review process takes place globally, including in North America, Europe, China, etc. It is not localized to Buffalo.
  • The most recent performance review cycle was from July 2022 through December 2022. On December 13th, 2022, managers across the company received a communication regarding the review schedule. This included information noting that exits for low performers would start the week of February 12, 2023.
  • Approximately 4% of the employees on the Autopilot labeling team in Buffalo were exited as a result of this performance review cycle. The employees let go as part of this process received prior feedback on their poor performance from their managers over the course of the review period. Despite feedback, they did not demonstrate sufficient improvement.
  • The impacted employees were identified on February 3, 2023, which was well before the union campaign was announced. We became aware of organizing activities approximately 10 days later. We learned in hindsight that one out of the 27 impacted employees officially identified as part of the union campaign. This exercise pre-dated any union campaign.
  • The labeling team in Buffalo, NY has been growing over the last several months at an average rate of around 10 employees a week. Over the last 6 months, the department's employee base has grown 54%, from 437 employees to 675 employees as of the beginning of this week.
  • The reason there is time monitoring for image labeling is to improve the ease of use of our labeling software. Since its purpose is to calculate how long it takes to label an image, there is nothing to be gained by delaying bathroom breaks. The claim that Tesla pressures employees to do so is categorically false.

Our employees in Buffalo are core to our mission of accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy, helping to build Superchargers, Solar Roof and power electronics for many applications.

The original article continues below.

In a, perhaps unsurprising, turn of events, Tesla has seemingly fired a number of workers in Buffalo, New York who were organizing to form a union within the company. The firings took place just a day after New York Tesla employees announced intention to organize a union vote. Such being the case, Workers United has filed a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board claiming that the firings were a direct retaliation against union organization at the electric car company.

The Workers United filing to the NLRB on behalf of the terminated Tesla employees was reported today by Bloomberg. Reportedly, Tesla employees at the Buffalo gigafactory were hit with surprise performance reviews just a day after it was announced that workers were organizing a union with the help of the Workers United group. The More Perfect Union Twitter alleges that more than 30 employees were fired, which is apparently eight times more than usual in said performance evaluation sweeps. Many of the employees worked on Tesla’s Autopilot program and some were directly involved in the organization of a union at the company.

Tesla Workers United tweet following Buffalo firings
The Tesla Workers United group claims that despite the firings, it will not back down from organizing a union within the company. In fact, it claims the firings prove the company's need for a union.
Source: Tesla Workers United

Tesla’s response to unionization within the company is troubling, but not uncommon. Elon Musk has previously signaled intense opposition to unionization. If the NLRB acts upon the complaint fielded by Workers United, it wouldn’t even be the first time Musk and Tesla have been punished for anti-union behavior. In 2021, the NLRB ordered Musk to delete anti-union tweets and reinstate fired worker Richard Ortiz, whose employment was allegedly terminated due to pro-union advocacy.

The Tesla Workers United group has also announced it will not back down.

“We’re angry,” Tesla Workers United wrote. “But this won’t slow us down or stop us. They want us to be scared, but they just started a stampede. These firings are the exact reason why we need a union at Tesla. We believe we can do this, but more importantly we believe we will do this.”

It will remain to be seen if Tesla faces similar consequences for its firing of employees seemingly over union organization from the NLRB. Stay tuned as we continue to monitor this story for further updates and developments.

Senior News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player and writer with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. He found his way to the Shacknews roster in late 2019 and has worked his way to Senior News Editor since. Between news coverage, he also aides notably in livestream projects like the indie game-focused Indie-licious, the Shacknews Stimulus Games, and the Shacknews Dump. You can reach him at tj.denzer@shacknews.com and also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

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