Tesla workers were told to remove shirts supporting the UAW, violating rights upheld by the National Labor Relations Board.
Tesla violated labor rights at its Fremont assembly plant by restricting the display of any pro-union symbols or insignias on apparel at the workplace, the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Monday, as noted by a press release from the organization.
The Fremont plant requires employees to wear black shirts with the Tesla logo or, when supervisors allowed, all-black shirts while on the job. This meant workers couldn’t substitute any shirt for one bearing a pro-union insignia—an unlawful policy, according to the NLRB. From the release:
When an employer interferes in any way with employees’ right under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act to display union insignia, that interference is presumptively unlawful, and the employer has the burden to establish special circumstances that make the rule necessary to maintain production or discipline. The majority then found that Tesla failed to establish special circumstances in this case.
According to Bloomberg, former employees testified in 2018 that managers instructed them to remove shirts supporting the United Auto Workers union, even when co-workers wore shirts supporting sports teams, something that should’ve also been disallowed, without incident.
“Wearing union insignia, whether a button or a t-shirt, is a critical form of protected communication,” Chairman Lauren McFerran said in a release. “For many decades, employees have used insignia to advocate for their workplace interests—from supporting organizing campaigns, to protesting unfair conditions in the workplace—and the law has always protected them.”
This isn’t the first time Tesla’s Fremont plant has dealt with union organizing. The company fired a worker in 2017 as a retaliation for union-organizing efforts at the facility. The NLRB ruled the firing illegal, and ordered Tesla to reinstate the worker and award back pay. The Fremont plant remains un-unionized.
“With today’s decision, the Board reaffirms that any attempt to restrict the wearing of union clothing or insignia is presumptively unlawful and—consistent with Supreme Court precedent—an employer has a heightened burden to justify attempts to limit this important right,” McFerran added.
Brian Silvestro Road & Track’s staff writer.