- Tesla said it laid off 27 employees in Buffalo, New York due to poor performance.
- Tesla rejected the allegation it had laid off the workers due to a unionization campaign.
- An NLRB complaint accused Tesla of terminating staff in retaliation to their unionizing effort.
Tesla denied an allegation that it laid off dozens of staff at its plant in Buffalo, New York in an attempt to discourage unionizing, stating that the employees were laid off due to poor performance instead.
The electric vehicle maker also hit back at what it called a “false allegation.”
“The employees let go as part of this process received prior feedback on their poor performance from their managers over the course of the review period,” Tesla said in a Thursday blog post. “Despite feedback, they did not demonstrate sufficient improvement,” it added.
Tesla said in the post that it had laid off 4% — or 27 — of 675 employees belonging to the Autopilot labeling team in Buffalo for poor performance, following a six-monthly performance review that takes place globally. The last cycle was from July 2022 through December 2022, and managers were informed on December 13 that low performers would be exiting from the week of February 12, per the post.
The Austin, Texas-based EV maker added that it identified workers to be laid off on February 3 — “well before” the union campaign was announced. “We became aware of organizing activities approximately 10 days later,” Tesla added. Just one of the 27 impacted employees identified with the union, it said.
The tiff kicked off after the Workers United union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB, stating that Tesla unlawfully terminated some staff “in retaliation for union activity and to discourage union activity,” Bloomberg reported on Thursday. The union told the media outlet some of the laid-off staff were involved in unionization talks.
The NLRB confirmed to Insider on Thursday that a complaint was filed and that the agency’s regional office is investigating.
Workers at Tesla’s Buffalo plant had emailed CEO Elon Musk on Tuesday to inform him of their plans to unionize, Bloomberg reported. The employees told the media outlet they were seeking better pay, working conditions, and job security, adding that Tesla tracked their keystrokes and productivity to the extent that some workers avoided taking bathroom breaks.
Tesla also responded to this allegation, stating that it was monitoring the time it took to label images to “improve the ease of use of our labeling software.”
“Since its purpose is to calculate how long it takes to label an image, there is nothing to be gained by delaying bathroom breaks. The claim that Tesla pressures employees to do so is categorically false,” said Tesla.
Tesla, Workers United, and the NLRB did not immediately Insider’s requests for comment sent outside regular business hours.
This isn’t the first time Tesla is in a tense situation with a union. In 2021, the NLRB ruled Tesla repeatedly violated labor laws by trying to prevent workers from unionizing and from talking about working conditions.