Steelworkers accuse Tesla of firing 6 pro-union workers and retaliation

Investigates
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The United Steelworkers charge that Tesla in Buffalo fired six pro-union workers and interfered with a former worker’s effort to obtain a new job, the News 4 Investigates team has learned. 

News 4 Investigates obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request a redacted copy of the Steelworkers’ complaint from the National Labor Relations Board. 

The names of the terminated employees are redacted from the report, which was filed Wednesday. 

The complaint against the Tesla plant in Buffalo states that in 2019, Tesla terminated six employees “in retaliation for their union support.” 

In January, Tesla announced a global workforce reduction, which included about 50 workers losing their jobs in Buffalo. The News 4 Investigates Team in February interviewed two of those workers, who painted a grim picture of operations at the Buffalo plant. 

In addition, the Steelworkers charge that Tesla “intentionally interfered” with a former employee’s effort to obtain a new job in “retaliation” for his outspoken union support. 

Tesla declined to comment beyond what the company shared Thursday, which was: “Tesla greatly values our employees at our Buffalo facility, and respects their right to organize. The ULP (unfair labor practice) allegation is without merit and we will be responding as part of the NLRB process.”

News 4 Investigates first reported in December 2018 that some Buffalo Tesla workers wanted to unionize. Workers told News 4 Investigates in December that they want better pay and job security, among other demands. 

The average salary at the Buffalo Tesla plant is $16.20 an hour plus benefits and equity.

Representatives from the Steelworkers did not return messages for comment. 

The Buffalo factory partners with Panasonic to build solar panels. The factory was built and equipped with $750 million in taxpayer money, the crown jewel of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion program.

Since Tesla began operations in late 2016, their solar business has slumped to an all-time low, dropping Tesla to third place in residential solar installations, according to Wood Mackenzie, an energy and research consultant firm. 

The plant employs 329 workers in Buffalo; Panasonic employs another 401 workers. Tesla must employ 1,460 employees by April 2020 or face a state penalty of $41.2 million, according to its agreement with the state. 

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