‘Treated like robots’ employees riot and are fired

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Several employees of the Autopilot division based at the Tesla factory located in Buffalo, New York, have decided to unite and create a union to denounce their working conditions. A great first for the brand, often criticized for its very strict management methods. He has also just fired several employees at the origin of this movement.

Is this the beginning of a new era for Tesla? Indeed, for a few days, a wind of revolution has been blowing over the Buffalo Gigafactory, located in the State of New York. In this factory, which is not dedicated to the manufacture of automobiles, like the one in Berlin, but to the production of photovoltaic cells, something unusual is happening. And that shouldn’t please Elon Musk, who is already bracing for a tough year due to Chinese competition.

A new union?

But then what’s really going on in Buffalo? As advertised on the site Bloombergseveral employees have decided to meet to protest against imposed working conditions by the manufacturer, which broke a sales record in 2022 with more than a million cars delivered worldwide. These employees, who are working on the development of the Autopilot semi-autonomous driving system, sent an email to Elon Musk announcing their intention to unionize.

The latter, in fact, denounce dangerous working conditions, while last November a class action lawsuit had already been launched by various subcontractors against the Texas-based firm. But this is the first time that the brand’s employees have rebelled, while the manufacturer has always been hostile to unions.


—TeslaWorkersUnited (@united_tesla) February 14, 2023

As the site remembers Siecul Digital, Tesla had previously shut down an internal chat room where employees expressed their discontent. But then, what are the demands of this group of employees, who now seek to convince their colleagues from other branches? Helped by United Workerswho has already helped Starbucks employees in a similar process, the latter denounce dangerous working conditions and are tired of being ” treated like robots according to Al Celli, one of the members of this union.

They then deplore the constant pressure from their company, particularly against the practice of telecommuting, while constantly monitoring keystrokes in real time, to ensure that employees are as productive as possible. To the extent that some even avoid taking bathroom breaks. The wage increase is also part of the demands, while this would be $19 an hour, or about 17 euros according to the current exchange rate. The minimum hourly rate is set at $14.2 in the United States.

a first

Compare, the minimum wage per hour in France is currently 11.27 euros gross (but with the integration of social benefits, such as unemployment or Social Security). If the unions are omnipresent in France, while a new strike is taking place precisely in transport, specifically this Thursday, February 16, the same is not happening in the United States. The country is by definition hostile to this type of social organization, although more and more employees still decide to join to denounce their working conditions.

This is particularly the case with Google, Amazon or even Activision. But then they must face strong hostility from the leaders. And Tesla employees, of course, are no exception, as in 2018, Elon Musk threatened to withdraw shares from their employees who would consider rebelling. In 2022, the executive also said that his company offered the best compensation in the industry.

The next step will now be organizing a vote by employees, which would be 800 to work at Autopilot, of the 2,000 employees at the Buffalo plant. As explained on the website of the BBCif 30% of workers support unionization, then Tesla would be required to negotiate with employees about working conditions and wages.

If this approach is successful, then it will mark a new stage for labor law in the United States, while the movement could accelerate and worry other factories, even other companies.

Tesla lays off employees

But it should be much more complicated than expected. Indeed, and as another article in Bloombergseveral dozen employees at the origin of the movement would have been fired by Tesla. If the brand has not ruled on the issue, at least one of the 25 dismissed employees would be among those who denounced the working conditions within the company. According to a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) of the United States, these layoffs would occur.” in retaliation for union activity and to discourage union activity« .

The brand does not give reasons for this measure, but the Bloomberg report indicates that employees received a warning about the use of technology in your workplace. Tesla then asked them to ” protect the confidentiality, integrity and security of all business information« .

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