back to article Tesla fires gigafactory staff after someone made the mistake of mentioning unions

Tesla has reportedly fired employees at its Buffalo, NY, gigafactory just a day after workers announced plans to unionize. In a complaint filed with America's National Labor Relations Board and viewed by The Register, representatives from the Rochester regional Workers United joint board named 18 employees they say were …

  1. Flak
    Megaphone

    19th Century England or 21st Century USA?

    Who would have thought that at times you cannot tell them apart!

    Megaphone for the union members on the picket line.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 19th Century England or 21st Century USA?

      And 21st century Britain if the Tories get their way. Their main reason for brexit, after all, and the sheep went along with it.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: 19th Century England or 21st Century USA?

        So do we get transported to Australia for trying to form a union now ?

        1. MrDamage Silver badge

          Re: 19th Century England or 21st Century USA?

          Yes. But the true punishment comes when you arrive. You see, no Strayan would be caught dead drinking Fosters on our own shores, so it's up to you guys to deplete the local stocks of fizzy horse piss.

          1. Tilda Rice

            Re: 19th Century England or 21st Century USA?

            Blimey, even a story about Tesla brings out Brexit comments? I know its El Reg comments section, but good grief. Get a life.

            1. NoneSuch Silver badge
              Coffee/keyboard

              Re: 19th Century England or 21st Century USA?

              You can get a life. A nice one from Brussels, but there are extra customs and duty charges.

    2. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: 19th Century England or 21st Century USA?

      Its not "Tesla", its "any US corporation". They spend big on fighting unions, there are consultancies that will organize anti-union efforts and so on. The mistake appears to be to assume that because Tesla is a technology company that its somehow works by different workplace rules.

      Unions have published guides to organizing workplaces. Lesson One is "Do Not Try To Organize At The Workplace On Work Time". Lesson Two is "Do Not Use Workplace Facilities like Email".

      Incidentally, after the 1980s I thought that unions were effectively illegal in the UK. Sure, they exist, but any attempt at effective union organization will get attacked big time. (Am I just old for remembering what happened back then? Or has everyone just forgotten? Done terms like "Srophshire" and "Builders" mean anything?)

      1. Reality_Cheque

        Re: 19th Century England or 21st Century USA?

        I'm surprised that you have written this in the context of the current industrial relations disgruntlement. Here in the UK we are facing a massive wave of strikes - rail, nurses, teachers, mail, etc. and these are all organised by unions. Unions are clearly not illegal, clearly still have teeth, and are clearly not shy or wrecking businesses to get their way.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: 19th Century England or 21st Century USA?

          You are free to strike so long as you balloted the members properly - in ancient Greek by hidden scroll buried in a pyramid not less than 3000 years before the beginning of the action.

          The strike doesn't reduce the service below statutory minimum levels - defined as 110% of the normal operating level

          And doesn't cause any financial damage to anyone in the company, its customers, its customers tennis partners, its customers tennis partner's friends, etc

      2. Helcat

        Re: 19th Century England or 21st Century USA?

        "Incidentally, after the 1980s I thought that unions were effectively illegal in the UK."

        No, Unions had their wings clipped to stop them destroying the economy.

        What was learned from the Miners strikes in the UK was that if a Union gets too powerful, it demands more and more until the business collapses, which can have a cascade effect on dependent industries. If the Business management is too powerful, they run rough shod over the workforce, reducing productivity and worker cooperation with equally disastrous effects. What is needed is that delicate medium when unions and employers keep each other in check and the work force is able to flourish as the business grows. While that balance remains, you don't hear much about the Unions because they don't have anything to shout about. Rather, they do their business of looking after employee rights, and are fair to the employers should there be a problem and downsizing is needed or there's a troublesome employee.

        But a Union that's hostile to the management just causes trouble. This I learned from a former millionaire. He never had much money, and lived modestly: He and his partners drew the same salary as a manager in the company and reinvested profits into the business. This grew the business and hence its value until it was worth millions, hence the owners being millionaires. However, they invested in the people and in the machinery and were working to make the business safer as tech advanced. Then came the strikes and the union wanted the workers to be paid more, more holiday, better benefits, and better facilities. Forget that most of this was already planned and being worked on (new workshop with new machinery being in progress so workers would move in there while the old area was refurbished, for example, and the company paid a decent wage to its workers already) - the Unions called a strike to get what they wanted, and everyone walked out.

        Now, the Managers and owners all stopped drawing pay, the owners put their own money into the business to keep it going despite it not producing anything, covering costs and debts and they tried to talk to the Unions, who simply kept adding to their demands, not negotiating on when things would be delivered. End result: An ultimatum. Either the workers returned for ONE WEEK to clear the backlog of orders, or the company would close. The union leaders were delighted! They REFUSED! Next day, the company was shut, and receivers were in, sorting out debts. Employees got nothing.

        The Union reps and employees were furious and went to the owners houses to find them moving out as they'd mortgaged their homes to pay workers wages while they were on strike. The owners were bankrupted by the Unions, and every single worker was out of a job WITHOUT redundancy pay. Worse, there were precious few jobs out there due to the various strikes that were happening. Worse still, employers were not about to hire people who had been on strike: Way too risky. So those workers had to find low paid jobs where they would be easy to replace if they made demands and caused trouble.

        That former millionaire was only so because of the value of the company he part owned. He didn't have millions to spend on things: It was all invested in the business. He built his wealth back up slowly, and never trusted others after that: He'd been stung once that way and it cost him his marriage. He worked in a paper shop, got promoted to manager, and raised enough money to establish his own shop. He ran it, with his son, and that's how I met him. He was a nice guy, too: Friendly, helpful, but he would not longer give you the shirt from his back because he wanted to keep his trousers, thanks... (and if you don't understand that one: he'd learned that some people, when given help, only go on to demand more). Was some time before I learned of his past, and then only because he'd had a stroke and I'd asked him why he didn't hire someone to look after the shop for a bit. He wouldn't because he'd lost trust in people. After learning about his past, I could understand why.

        It's a fine balance, and it's one easily disrupted by greed.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 19th Century England or 21st Century USA?

          "No, Unions had their wings clipped to stop them destroying the economy."

          BS. It's because they want their share of the profits. Can't have any of that, can we? "Economy" is *always* same thing as "Profits". Why you bother to lie about that?

          So lower salaries for workers and billions in profits to company. Only blatantly greedy people would see that as Right(TM).

          "But a Union that's hostile to the management just causes trouble."

          No, you've roles reversed: Managers make the rules and they hate Unions as Unions limit their infinite greed by wanting a very small share of the profits.

          Top management, less than 100 people, typically cause >10% of *all* personnel cost in a corporation employing tens of thousands of people.

  2. IceC0ld
    WTF?

    the Musky one appears to believe he is above EVERYTHING

    he fails to recognise that without his work force, he is LESS than nothing

    1. Potemkine! Silver badge

      There are enough poor people worldwide in a need of a job for him not to worry about this.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Sadly true :(

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Some of these are highly skilled jobs where there isn't an abundance of people waiting to take their place.

      3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        >There are enough poor people worldwide in a need of a job for him not to worry about this.

        But are there enough rich people in the USA who are eco warrior enough to want a Tesla but also hate unions ?

        A Tesla is a flash bastard asparational purchase, not sure who buys it if it comes with a MAGA hat

        1. tekHedd

          Denial[TM] to the rescue!

          "...not sure who buys it if it comes with a MAGA hat"

          You underestimate the power of denial. Eco warriors like to have flash brands on their not particularly special overpriced cars too, and they'll just make up some excuse and drive off in happy smugness anyway. It's powerful!

          But I suppose there are options now: if Tesla can't do better you might as well just get that hybrid Porsche minivan (which you can pretend is an SUV) that can tell yourself you've also always wanted instead.

          Denial can be used in so many different situations. I'm pretending someone is reading this and thinks it's interesting right now! ;) Happy friday!

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Denial[TM] to the rescue!

            If it becomes embarrassing to own a Tesla in the cool set then there are a now a lot of alternatives that may offer better performance / value / etc

            It's not clear Tesla has the same consumer lock-in as say owning an iPhone,

            1. DS999 Silver badge

              Re: Denial[TM] to the rescue!

              I know two people who have a Tesla, one of them has already when she's in the market for a new car Tesla will be off the list. Though I think half of that was due to all the build quality defects it took a couple months to resolve after taking delivery, but Musk turning into a Trumper definitely didn't help the case with her. There are more and more alternatives for EVs every year, and within a few years every major automaker will have them.

              There's no first mover advantage and no network effect with cars, it is nothing like tech products. Every time you buy a car there is no benefit to buying the same brand you had before, no cost for switching to a different brand.

              1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                Re: Denial[TM] to the rescue!

                >There's no first mover advantage and no network effect with cars

                There was with Tesla originally, at least here in the former colonies. It was the first EV that wasn't a huge compromise (looking at you BMW i3) , then the model 3 was "affordable" and you had the fast charger network.

                Now that you can buy an EV version of every car and there are DC fast chargers, although still not as good as the Tesla network if you are driving cross country.

                I wonder if Tesla can force a buyer lock-in? The drawback of not having a dealer network. You could allow owners to transfer "licensed" features, like self driving to new models. IIRC there was a case where some add-on feature was blocked on a car that was sold 2nd hand, can't remember what the court ruling was.

                1. DS999 Silver badge

                  Re: Denial[TM] to the rescue!

                  Transferring licensed features to your new car is only valuable if you CAN'T transfer them to whoever you sell your car to. I doubt they would have a lot of takers for $10K+ options that are not transferable to a second owner, especially when Tesla has already introduce 'autonomous' features twice first with autopilot and then with "full self driving".

                  Since they still are nowhere near autonomous there may be more iterations. How much value does "full self driving" have as a feature in the future if in order to realize that goal you have to get "complete for real this time we mean it autonomous driving" and "full self driving" remains stuck at Level 2? Or they say you need to get an "upgrade" to that package to use new sensors in your newer car, so fork over another $15K or your existing licensed feature will not work in your new car?

                  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                    Re: Denial[TM] to the rescue!

                    Microsoft is being sued for 270M quid (or is appealing the appeal following the appeal) for deciding that companies can't sell their old Microsoft licenses when they stop using the products

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: Denial[TM] to the rescue!

                      At least in EU blatantly illegal. And of course MS knows that, they just don't give a f**k.

  3. Matthew "The Worst Writer on the Internet" Saroff

    Musk needs to be frog marched out of his offices in handcuffs.

    1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      He can say he had no part in any of it because he was too busy screaming at Twitter employees.

    2. Grogan Silver badge

      Actually I think the frog in boiling water thing is more appropriate for him. It wouldn't start off tepid if I was doing it either.

      1. Ian Mason

        You start off very cold. Then you can watch the false hope as it gets comfortable, and then the slow realisation as it gets hotter and hotter. You could even take a leaf out of David Blaine's book and do it all in a transparent tank suspended over a bury city street. Find the right politician in need of the circuses part of "bread and circuses" and you probably could get your wish.

  4. DJ
    Coat

    You work for Elon Musk?

    Sorry to hear that, old chap.

    Mine's the one without the spliff in the pocket.

  5. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Alert

    St. Valentine's Day [After] Massacre

    Feb 14 1929 - St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Chicago, IL

    Feb 14 2023 - St. Valentine's Day [After] Massacre. Buffalo, NY

  6. SJA

    Understandable

    Who wants unions in the US anyway (and also in Germany). They are just too much PITA.

    1. Slef

      Re: Understandable

      Yep why bother with unions! 5 day working week, paid holiday, not being killed at work, health coverage, weekens, universal suffrage....its a bit like what did trhe Romans ever do for us? Sewerage, fresh water, roads etc

      1. Ideasource Bronze badge

        Re: Understandable

        Although if you could ask the average victim of Roman imperialism they'd probably tell you they'd rather keep deficating in an outhouse and fetching water alongside the family and friends and culture they lost to Roman war efforts.

        1. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

          Re: Understandable

          What was their civilisation? Vast, I allow: but vile. Cloacae: sewers. The Jews in the wilderness and on the mountaintop said: It is meet to be here. Let us build an altar to Jehovah. The Roman, like the Englishman who follows in his footsteps, brought to every new shore on which he set his foot (on our shore he never set it) only his cloacal obsession. He gazed about him in his toga and he said: It is meet to be here. Let us construct a watercloset.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Understandable

      In Germany unions are crucial to keeping productivity high and thus companies competitive. Enlightened self-interest suggests that it's better to get people to agree to necessary changes than simply to impose them and 150 years evidence suggest there might be something to this.

      The US labour market is, however, different with public sector unions, especially teachers, notorious for downing tools over non-work related issues.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Understandable

        But we're all fans of Police unions?

        How else do we break strikes

        1. Tilda Rice

          Re: Understandable

          If you've never had to navigate a picket line yourself, then you can't really comment. Police are humans too.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Understandable

            "being humans" didn't help Nazis in Nürenberg much. Or "just obeying orders" ... which, BTW, Police *will* do.

            So it's irrelevant what they are outside uniform: They still do what they are told when in uniform. Or what they like to do and obviously murdering wrong coloured people is one of the hobbies Police likes to have.

            And "punishment" for that? 2 weeks paid holiday.

            Here in North Police exists to provide revenue to the state, about 220M euros per year from 5M people. Being a Police is *good business*.

    3. tekHedd

      You can't always get what you want

      "Unions and companies that need them deserve each other."

      --not sure, can somebody give me the attribution for this quote? I learned it in the 80s.

    4. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Understandable

      Actually if the union is properly managed and contracts properly drafted, it can be an overall 'win' to allow the unions into a shop.

      As long as there are 'right to work' provisions, and no mandatory union dues for political purposes, at any rate...

      SO if I built a factory I would check with local unions in the desired locations and have them tell me what the labor will cosl and do some research on them on top of it. This way you get a fair cost estimate and the employees are already IN the union. Then you work with the union to hire/fire and do the HR, with contracts that do not limit your ability to automate or or 'adjust staffing'' or hire contractors when needed. Then you make sure the union gets a chunk of stock so that when the company does well, so does the union. Then you build your factory with a known cost and focus on process efficiency and that sort of thing, knowing the costs, knowing the likely productivity, and then adjusting the business around it.

      If you are non-union it helps to pay union scale, also. And if employees "feel intimidated" about the continuous monitoring, perhaps they become more productive with INCENTIVES!

      1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

        Disincentives and Incentives for Workers

        Problem #1 (Disincentives): Pervasive monitoring and "meet your (ever-increasing) quota or you're sacked!"-mentality executives just cause emplyee resentment, "working to rule", and encouragement to fuck with or screw over the company in whatever creative ways the workers can think of.

        Problem #2 (Incentives): If you give rewards to employees exceeding production quotas, they will do so at the expense of everything else: "you get what you measure." If you give rewards based on company performance (be careful how you measure that), it doesn't work if a worker's extra (cash|stock) depends on decisions made in the boardroom, since the worker has no control or significant influence over them.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Understandable

        You know, you'd need to *collaborate*!

        Can't have any of that! Company exists solely to make maximum profit to owners *this quarter* and anything else is totally unthinkable! /s

        ... and the sad part: Some moron CEOs say that without sarcasm: They actually *believe so*.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Understandable

      "Who wants unions in the US anyway (and also in Germany). They are just too much PITA."

      Anyone who isn't in top management (or owner). So, either you are in top management or you're just stupid. Or both.

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "Tesla has reportedly fired employees [..] just a day after workers announced plans to unionize"

    Well that's one plan that will be going forward now. Well done on quelling dissent, Tesla.

    Major success.

    What is it with companies in the USA these days ? It seems they are all pining for the Pinkerton days of yore.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: "Tesla has reportedly fired employees [..] just a day after workers announced plans to unionize"

      > It seems they are all pining for the Pinkerton days of yore.

      Too expensive, but those Wagner guys are probably cheap - now if only we can get H1Bs for them

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: "Tesla has reportedly fired employees [..] just a day after workers announced plans to unionize"

        Just post a message on Truth Social that the strikers are holding drag shows, and you'll get your jackbooted thugs for free.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Tesla has reportedly fired employees [..] just a day after workers announced plans to unionize"

          Or reading stories in a library to employee's kids

  9. My-Handle

    policy

    "informing them of a new policy prohibiting the recording of workplace meetings without all participants' consent"

    This coming from a company that's monitoring every keystroke of its employees?

    Also, I'm guessing that if it's your superior doing the recording then consent is mandatory.

    1. Marty McFly Silver badge

      Re: policy

      I am trying to figure out why this is an issue. Everyone is on the clock, and it is a company related meeting (it is a workplace meeting). The company can decide what policy they want for recording meetings, and the employees who receive a paycheck need to comply with that.

      It is safe to assume Tesla has a lot of intellectual property & confidential information to protect. Why would they blindly permit any recording without full consent from all parties involved?

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: policy

        The policy is set up so they can have someone say something like "If you do anything like that you will be fired immediately and we have the ability to alter your performance history to indicate misconduct then have lawyers pursue you for it", or likely a less intense version of the above threat. Employee-hostile companies have perfected the art of threatening people without making it too obvious that's what they're doing. Nobody can get evidence of that statement, so in the NLRB meeting they can say that the reporting employee (fired by now, of course) was just making it up. It wouldn't stop me from recording anyway if I thought such a statement would be made, but if they announce a policy like this, people may think it's legally binding.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: policy

          Thank god! It also allows them to fire union organizers to organize on company time, without having to fire them because they are, in fact, organizing...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: policy

        "The company can decide what policy they want for recording meetings, and the employees who receive a paycheck need to comply with that."

        That's what you believe. At least here (EU) I have a right to record everything I discuss with HR or with my managers and they have no say on that: It's all about worker's rights, you know?

        In some countries workers *have* rights. Not much, but some at least.

  10. Medixstiff

    Well with the recall of 362,000 cars, Ford, Merc and GM coming higher up the ladder for their driver assist products, I'm sure the sacked staff will be laughing when they get snapped up by the opposition and watch Tesla falling even further behind.

  11. jollyboyspecial

    Remember kids. Elon is a biiig fan of freedom of speech just so long as you agree with him...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Like most maga assholes.

  12. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
    Coat

    contacting Tesla

    couldn't reach anyone at the company for comment, as Tesla has no media team and its PR mailbox is full.

    Have you tried Twitter?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: contacting Tesla

      LOL. Epic.

      :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: contacting Tesla

      What email software are they using where a mailbox "is full"?

      (Is Tesla just disabling the "PR" user from receiving mail? The email equivalent of the old "taking the phone off the hook" trick?)

      1. stiine Silver badge

        Re: contacting Tesla

        No, you just configure the mailbox to not auto-purge, and then send email to it until its full, and then you neve touch it again. All of the mail in the box is benign, and no new mail is accepted...

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: contacting Tesla

        They're having a few problems with Full Auto-Responding.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: contacting Tesla

        Any working one.

        You do not want to purge emails and in some cases that's a federal crime. That means that mailbox can get full: Hard drives aren't infinite. Simple.

  13. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Something Elon actually saw coming ...

    Remember when he wanted to set up a hard core (X-rated?) litigation department made up of streetfighter lawyers and apparently offered to pay them in blood. He must have expected Tesla would become a litigation company.

  14. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Good policy?

    "Those forming the group consisted of Autopilot data labelers working on the company's driving assist software."

    "Musk has previously stated he wanted to automate the data labeling process so that humans only had to confirm outputs - a good way to reduce some of the salary budget"

    Given the current capabilities of the Tesla software this might not be the best way to go.

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: Good policy?

      automated data labeling process:

      user error

      user error

      user error

      ...

  15. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Trollface

      What you'll find

      here is a bunch of commentators who are extremely smart, been at the sharp end of business for god knows how long and have observed what works in the workforce and what doesn't

      They are also bitter and resentful because they cannot be promoted beyond a technical grade because of the amount of knowledge and skill they bring to bear on solving their employer's problems.(remember kids.. if you cant be replaced , you'll never be promoted)

      And what works with employess is that you treat them with respect and a degree of freedom(within limits), and suddenly the production problems seem to melt away because they'll help you out if you help them out.

      The public sector is different because theres 2 classes of employees there... those that deliver the service and those that administer the service/build themselves little empires/always get promoted to senior manglement because we cant afford to lose any frontline staff who actually know what we do.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What you'll find

        if you cant be replaced , you'll never be promoted

        Then you need to look for a job elsewhere. Once you've gotten some solid offers, see what jobs are available within the company that you would want and are qualified for, then talk with your boss (or your boss' boss?), explaining that your usefulness in your current position has dead-ended you, that you'd like to stay with the company, but if they can't or won't offer you any advancement, then you have to jump ship. And stick to that, regardless of any excuses or future promises (delaying actions) they may give you.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      My dear Comrade, you have no idea what Communism is.

      It's almost as if you're American.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        It's almost as if you're American a troll who created an account three days ago and has contributed nothing of value since then.

        FTFY.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "for an IT site this place is borderline communist"

      Is your MAGA hat too tight? Obviously it's blocking blood circulation.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HR - the enemy of the employee

    Employees - our greatest asset.

    /S

  17. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Mentioning unions

    "Pipe couplings", please.

  18. FrenchFries!

    Employees need this dude

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3mw49mk_x0

    1. stiine Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Employees need this dude

      If that's the Buddhist monk who self-immolated, I agree, but don't need to watch it again.

  19. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    For a country that claims to be all about equality and freedom.

    America sure is weird when it comes to unions and workers rights.

    1. ragnar

      Re: For a country that claims to be all about equality and freedom.

      Freedom for corporations to maximise profit.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: For a country that claims to be all about equality and freedom.

      Nono, it *is* about equality: Every dollar is equal and free to do what ever it wants. What? You thought it was about *people*? No, it hasn't been that since ... WWI, perhaps? If ever.

      Naturally, those who have more dollars, make the rules to benefit those who have more dollars.

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