US agency: ‘unlawful’ for Tesla to prevent workers from wearing union shirts

Automaker Tesla’s logo on display at a branch in Bern, Switzerland Oct. 28, 2020. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

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Aug 29 (Reuters) – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) said Monday it was illegal for Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) to ban employees from wearing shirts with union insignia, ruling in a 2017 dispute between the electrical manufacturer cars and the United Automobile Workers (UAW) union.

NLRB Chair Lauren McFerran said the decision reaffirms that “any attempt to restrict the wearing of union clothes or insignia is presumably illegal and — in line with Supreme Court precedent — an employer will have an increased burden to try to enforce this important right.” to justify limiting.”

In a 3-2 decision, the NLRB said that when companies interfere with workers’ rights to display union insignia, the employer “has the burden of identifying special circumstances” and the majority “found that Tesla did not have any special circumstances in this case.” circumstances had been established”.

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Tesla and the UAW did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In addition to ruling on the Tesla case, the NLRB also reversed a 2019 agency decision involving Walmart Inc (WMT.N), saying the earlier decision “ignored decades of precedent set in the board.”

The NLRB said some Tesla employees who assemble electric vehicles at its Fremont, Calif., factory wore shirts with union logos during a UAW organizing campaign in 2017. At the time, the UAW was trying to represent workers at Tesla’s Fremont factory, which did not attend. were unionized.

Tesla’s “teamwear” policy required employees to wear black shirts with the Tesla logo or their own black T-shirts without a logo. The NLRB found that this implicitly prohibited employees from replacing a shirt with any logo or emblem, including a shirt with union insignia.

The NLRB said that before 2017, Tesla production workers regularly wore shirts that were not black or had logos and decals unrelated to Tesla. On Monday, it ordered Tesla to repeal its policy banning workers from wearing black union shirts.

This is not the first clash between Tesla and the NLRB.

In 2021, the NLRB said a 2018 tweet from CEO Elon Musk threatening that Tesla employees who unionized would lose their stock options was illegal and should be removed.

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Reporting by Doyinsola Oladipo in New York; Writing by David Shepardson Editing by Mark Porter and Matthew Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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