The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled on Monday that it was unlawful for Tesla to mandate employees to only wear Tesla or other pre-approved black tee shirts, as per The Verge.

Under the company’s policy, employees are prohibited to wear shirts having union insignia. The policy, therefore, hinders employees who are trying to show union solidarity.

The ruling was made in the 2017 dispute between the electric car maker and the United Automobile Workers (UAW) union, as per Reuters.

nlrb rules against tesla dress code requiring workers to wear pre-approved black shirts only
(Photo : JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images)
The logo marks the showroom and service center for the US automotive and energy company Tesla in Amsterdam on October 23, 2019.

NLRB Orders Tesla to Repeal its Dress Policy

According to NLRB Chair Lauren McFerran, the decision reaffirms that “any attempt to restrict the wearing of union clothing or insignia is presumptively unlawful.”

The NLRB has a 3-2 decision. With this, the board said that in cases when companies prohibits the employees’ rights to show union insignia, the employer “has the burden to establish special circumstances,”

However, according to Reuters, the majority of NLRB “found that Tesla failed to establish special circumstances in this case.”

When requested for a comment, Tesla and the UAW did not immediately respond.

During a 2017 UAW union organizing campaign, Tesla employees working on assembling electric vehicles at the company’s Fremont, California plant wore shirts with union logos, according to NLRB.

During that time, the UAW was trying to talk to the workers at Tesla’s facility in Fremont, who were not unionized, that the group would like to represent them.

Based on Tesla’s policy, employees are required to wear only black shirts imprinted with the Tesla logo or black T-shirts without logo.

This policy, according to NLRB, implicitly prohibited employees from wearing shirt with the union insignia.

According NLRB, before 2017, employees of Tesla production can wear shirts that were not black or had logos and emblems not connected to Tesla.

Following this, the agency ordered Tesla on Monday to repeal its policy that prohibits employees from wearing black union shirts.

Organizers Show Musk What Solidarity Is

Tesla’s policy on wearing only black shirts imprinted with the Tesla logo or their own black T-shirts without logo went into effect in 2017.

According to The Verge, the employees were told by the automaker’s management that they couldn’t wear shirts bearing UAW logo.

The car company’s justification for its dress policy is that black shirts prevent damage to cars. Moreover, Tesla said that the company needed to maintain “visual management” of its employees. However, NLRB rejected Tesla’s reasons.

Meanwhile, the dress policy of Tesla was not able to stop labor organizing at the company. A judge’s ruling in 2019 stated that the company “had been sabotaging unionization efforts.”

Following NLRB’s ruling, the agency also asked Tesla CEO Elon Musk to delete an anti-union tweets from 2018.

It can be recalled that last March, Musk invited the UAW to hold a union vote. According to The Verge, Musk’s action was not a call for protecting labor rights but more of a dare to show that unionization isn’t necessary at Tesla.

“I’d like hereby to invite UAW to hold a union vote at their convenience. Tesla will do nothing to stop them.” Musk said.

So far, no vote has happened. However, thanks to the NLRB’s latest ruling, organizers have shown Musk what solidarity is.

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