Image via Steve Jurvetson/Flickr CC
Tesla (TSLA) has been enjoying a good few years. The brand is popular and breaking new ground in the automotive industry. The company continues to challenge the status quo, push the market and prove skeptics wrong turn after turn.
But not everything is rosy with Tesla. A recent complaint filed by the United Auto Workers alleges Tesla fired some workers “because they were trying to start a union.” UAW has asked the National Labor Relations Board to review their allegation and make a ruling on the situation. Tesla argues that the employees were terminated due to poor performance, but many are not buying that argument … not at all. The UAW says many other workers were “intimidated, harassed and unfairly disciplined” due to their interest in the possible unionizing action. UAW went on to say the fired workers did not have any performance problems. CNN reported several quotes from fired employees, including Mike Williams.
“I worked hard for this company for five years, sometimes 72 hours a week — and never had any performance-related complaints…” Williams said. He added that he firmly believes his public statements about being pro-union led to his termination. “I did, however, wear a union shirt… And I had union stickers on my water bottle. And I believed that a union would make us safer, and would make the company more organized and more efficient.”
According to the UAW, Tesla has fired “hundreds” of employees in the past six months. Tesla CEO Elon Musk says the union has no evidence those people were fired for being pro-union, and Musk flatly denied that any employee has been fired for supporting a union. Tesla has officially denounced the UAW’s claims as nothing more than attempts to get more workers interested in the union. In a statement released to the press, Tesla said: “…we strive to be a fair and just company, the only kind worth being… Performance reviews result in promotions and, occasionally, in employee departures.”
Meanwhile, as the union fight continues to build, Tesla is also facing multiple lawsuits alleging discrimination at one of its manufacturing plants – certainly bad for public relations . Speaking to CNN, Tesla spokespeople adamantly denounced any allegations of discrimination: “…in the history of Tesla, there has never been a single proven case of discrimination against the company. Not one.”
At this point, it’s a case of multiple he-said, she-said scenarios. The parties that control the narrative can control the direction of public sentiment in these cases … at least until the regulators and courts weigh in.
About the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR.