The National Labor Relations Board claims that Tesla and its CEO engaged in illegal actions against U.S. employees trying to form a union. One of those actions was a tweet, now three years old, in which Musk appeared to threaten to revoke valuable employee stock options if they voted for a union.
“Nothing prevents the Tesla team at our auto plant from voting for the union. I could do it if they wanted to, ”the tweet read. “But why pay union dues and give up stock options for nothing? Our safety record is twice as good as when the factory was UAW and everyone is already receiving health care. ”
The US labor law regulator ordered Musk to delete the tweet and he ordered Tesla to rehire a union supporter who had been fired. Other illegal Tesla anti-union actions cited by the Labor Relations Board include questioning employees about their union activities and disciplining or discriminating against employees for supporting the union.
As of Friday morning, the tweet had not been deleted.
Tesla ( made Musk one of the richest people in the world. It has also offered stock options to virtually all of its employees since its IPO. And even with a recent drop in Tesla shares, the share price has risen nearly $ 600 per share, or over 1,000%, since the time of the tweet, making the options that had been granted to employees of Extremely valuable Tesla. )
Tesla did not respond to a request for comment Thursday or early Friday on the action by the Labor Relations Board. The company defended the tweet in 2018 when objections against it were first raised.
“Elon’s tweet was simply an acknowledgment that, unlike Tesla, we don’t know of a single automaker represented by the UAW that offers stock options or restricted stock units to their customers. production workers, and UAW organizers have consistently rejected Tesla’s equity value. as part of our compensation package, ”said a spokesperson at the time.
The board’s decision suggests the tweet could be seen as a threat to remove options already granted to employees, regardless of Musk’s intention.
If employees voted to be represented by a union, it is clear that the valuable stock options that had already been granted to them could not be revoked, said Jeffrey Hirsch, professor of labor law at the University. from North Carolina.
What is much less clear, Hirsch added, is whether hourly workers could lose access to future stock options if they voted to be represented by a union.
The United Auto Workers union tried to organize the Tesla factory without success. She once represented workers at the plant when it was operated as a joint venture by General Motors and Toyota. The plant closed shortly after GM’s bankruptcy in 2010. Tesla bought the plant soon after.
The union has yet to gain enough support among employees to hold a union representation vote at the plant. He praised the NLRB’s decision on Thursday, while acknowledging that Tesla had avoided financial penalties for his conduct.
“This is a great victory for workers who have the courage to stand up and organize in a system that is currently strongly in favor of employers like Tesla who have no qualms about breaking the law,” said UAW Vice-President Cindy Estrada and Director of its Organizing Department. “While we celebrate the fairness in today’s ruling, it nonetheless highlights the substantial flaws in US labor law. Here is a company that has clearly broken the law and yet there are three years left before these workers achieve a minimum of justice.
Musk has a history of tweeting himself in trouble. He caused further turmoil later in 2018 when he announced he had “secured funding” to privatize the company. It turned out that he had spoken to investors about such an initiative, but no funding had been secured.
The Securities and Exchange Commission initially attempted to use this tweet as a cause to dismiss him as CEO, but instead struck a deal with Musk in which he relinquished the post of chairman, paid a $ 20million fine. dollars and had to have his future tweets supervised by others. in the company before publishing them.
He was also sued for libel for one of his tweets, although he won that case.