BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Tesla Workers United told News 4 on Thursday that over 30 workers were fired from Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo on Wednesday, after workers attempted to organize earlier this week.
In a release, Workers United called the firings “unacceptable” and said expectations of Tesla employees at the factory are “unfair, unattainable, ambiguous and ever changing.” Tesla said in a statement Thursday that the decision to part with employees was made well in advance of union efforts.
“I returned to work (from COVID and a bereavement leave), was told I was exceeding expectations and then Wednesday came along,” said organizing committee member Arian Berek in a release. “I strongly feel this is in retaliation to the committee announcement and it’s shameful.”
According to the release, workers also received an email from the company around 7 p.m. on Wednesday, saying workers are prohibited from recording workplace meetings without all participants’ permission. Workers United said the policy violates federal labor law and New York’s one-party consent law to record conversations.
Tesla employee Sara Costantino, another organizing committee member, also commented as part of the statement.
“We’re angry. This won’t slow us down. This won’t stop us,” Constantino said. “They want us to be scared, but I think they just started a stampede. We can do this. But I believe we will do this.”
News 4 reached out to Tesla on Tuesday following the announcement of worker organization and did not receive a response. Thursday, News 4 reached out again and received a bounce-back email, which said Tesla’s press email inbox is full and cannot currently accept messages. Telsa posted a statement on its website late Thursday, addressing what it called “false allegations.”
“The impacted employees were identified on February 3, 2023, which was well before the union campaign was announced,” the statement read in part. “We became aware of organizing activities approximately 10 days later. We learned in hindsight that one out of the 27 impacted employees officially identified as part of the union campaign. This exercise pre-dated any union campaign.”
On Thursday, a spokesperson for Gov. Kathy Hochul told News 4, “Governor Hochul supports workers’ rights to unionize and has supported unionization efforts and labor movements across the state. We expect all companies operating in New York to follow federal and state employment law, and our office is closely monitoring the situation.”
On Thursday, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz released a statement regarding the firings.
I was shocked to learn Tesla fired 30 workers today after Tesla Workers United began organizing efforts at Tesla’s Buffalo Gigafactory. I have always stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the men and women of organized labor and do so today with the fired workers.
It is unacceptable for any employer to fire workers who are pursuing better working conditions for themselves and their families, and it is even more egregious in the case of a multi-billion-dollar corporation such as Tesla.
These terminations send the message that Tesla has no respect for labor or their workforce and, even worse, has no interest in providing a workplace in which employees feel valued and heard. Even more egregiously, these terminations occurred at a facility that received millions of dollars in assistance from New York, a facility supported by the state for the sole purpose of creating good paying jobs for Erie County residents.
These firings are wrong and Tesla must immediately reinstate these employees to their positions.”Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz
The National Labor Relations Board said an unfair labor charge was filed with its Region 3 – Buffalo office and is being investigated. The claim was first reported on by Bloomberg.
Adam Duke is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of his work here.