US regulators have directed Tesla boss Elon Musk to delete a 2018 tweet that said Tesla workers would lose their stock options if they voted to unionize, calling the tweet an illegal threat.
According to the National Labor Relations Board, Tesla violated labor laws when it fired a union activist and when Musk tweeted: “Nothing stops the Tesla team at our electoral union car plant. I could do it tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues and give up stock options for nothing?
On Thursday night, the federal agency ordered the CEO to delete his tweet and offer a job to the fired employee, Richard Ortiz. The company must also compensate Ortiz for lost wages, benefits and adverse tax consequences that resulted from his firing, according to the regulator.
The board also directed Tesla to post notices across the country and to hold meetings at its main US auto plant in Fremont, California, to inform workers of their protected rights. At the meeting, Musk himself, or a “board agent” in Musk’s presence, will have to read that notice to workers, along with security guards, managers and supervisors.
United Auto Workers, which filed the lawsuit, confirmed the news. Tesla did not respond to requests for comment.
Ortiz was part of an organizing campaign, “Fair Future at Tesla.” At the time, Tesla said its business should remain union-free. Musk’s public comments on his Twitter account, where he has tens of millions of followers, were seen as threatening.
Tesla considers Musk’s tweets to be official company communications, as revealed in its financial reports. CEO tweets tend to have a huge impact, often sparking controversy and moving markets.
“While we celebrate justice in today’s ruling, it nonetheless highlights the substantial flaws in US labor law. Here is a company that clearly violated the law and, nevertheless, there are three years left for these workers to achieve a minimum of justice ”, said the vice president and director of the Department of Organization of the UAW, Cindy Estrada.
The NLRB also directed Tesla to review a confidentiality agreement it grants to employees, which said they were not allowed to speak to the media without explicit written permission. The NLRB said the agreement needs to be updated as US labor law generally “protects employees when they speak to the media about working conditions, labor disputes or other terms and conditions of employment.”