The National Labor Relations Board ruled that Tesla cannot ban workers from wearing union badges.
Wearing union badges is a “critical form of protected communication,” said an NLRB chair.
The NLRB previously ruled that Tesla repeatedly violated labor laws by preventing workers from organizing.
Tesla cannot prevent its workers from wearing union insignia, such as wearing union T-shirts and badges, at work, the National Labor Relations Board ruled Monday.
The majority of the board said it was “unlawful for Tesla to maintain a policy that requires employees to wear a plain black t-shirt or one with the employer’s logo, thereby prohibiting employees from wearing a t-shirt.” to replace union badges”.
Tesla, the board said, must find “special circumstances” to make the dress code for its employees necessary “to maintain production or discipline.” The board majority found that Tesla had no special circumstances for the rule.
“Wearing a union insignia, whether it’s a button or a t-shirt, is an important form of protected communication,” said NLRB chair Lauren McFerran. “For many decades, employees have used badges to stand up for their interests in the workplace – from supporting organizing campaigns to protesting unfair workplace conditions – and the law has always protected them.”
Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk do not have a reputation for being pro-union.
The NLRB previously ruled against Tesla in 2021 for violating labor laws by not allowing its workers to organize and talk about working conditions. Tesla was also ordered by the NLRB to reinstate a union activist who was fired in 2017.
The 2021 NLRB ruling also ruled that Musk had “unlawfully threatened” Tesla workers in a 2o18 tweet and ordered him to remove the tweet.
In September 2021, Musk criticized a bill by the Democratic House Legislature that would benefit unionized electric vehicle manufacturers. He blamed “Ford/UAW lobbyists” for the bill, and tweeted that it “wasn’t obvious how this would serve American taxpayers”.
But in 2022, Musk tweeted an invitation for the United Auto Workers Union to come to a Tesla factory and hold a union vote. In a Twitter response to an article about the invitation, Musk shared a YouTube video saying it “helps explain why former UAW members who work at Tesla aren’t big fans of the UAW.”
After Musk sent a company-wide email to Tesla executives in June 2022 saying they had to work at least 40 hours a week in the office or quit, he faced backlash from Germany’s largest union, IG Metall. Tesla factory workers have had to work in person even during the pandemic.
The union told Reuters it would support German workers who did not want to return to the office.
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