Labor board rules Tesla must allow workers to wear union clothes

DETROIT (AP) — The National Labor Relations Board overturned a Trump-era ruling finding that Tesla could not prevent factory workers from wearing clothing with union badges while on the job.

The board, in a 3-2 decision released Monday, overturned a 2019 NLRB ruling involving Walmart and union apparel. The council wrote that a 1945 Supreme Court decision set the precedent for authorizing clothing.

He ordered Tesla to stop enforcing an “overbroad” one-size-fits-all policy that effectively bars production workers at the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., from wearing black shirts with the United Auto union logo. Workers.

The board said that in ruling against Tesla, it reaffirmed a long-standing precedent that it is “presumed illegal” for employers to restrict union attire without specific circumstances justifying the ban.

The majority of the board determined that Tesla failed to establish specific circumstances that would allow UAW apparel to be banned.

“Council reaffirms that any attempt to restrict the wearing of union attire or badges is presumed unlawful and – consistent with Supreme Court case law – an employer has an increased burden to justify attempts to limit this important right.” President Lauren McFerran said in a statement. .

Messages were left Monday seeking comment from Tesla and the autoworkers union.

This is the second NLRB loss for Tesla and CEO Elon Musk.

Tesla is appealing a ruling last year that found the company and Musk engaged in unfair labor practices in 2018.

A year ago, the labor relations board found that in a May 20, 2018 tweet, Musk had unlawfully threatened employees with losing their stock options if they chose to be represented by the UAW.

Board members ordered Tesla to ask Musk to delete the tweet and stop threatening employees with losing benefits for supporting a labor organization.

Tesla was also to issue a notice regarding unfair labor practices at the Fremont plant, which has 10,000 workers, and issue a notice regarding the tweet at all of its facilities nationwide.

In April 2021, Tesla appealed the NLRB’s decision to a federal appeals court in New Orleans.

Among other things, the NLRB’s lengthy March 2021 decision also ordered Tesla to reinstate an employee who was fired for union activity and reimburse him for his wages.

Musk tweeted in May 2018: “There is nothing stopping the Tesla team at our auto plant from voting for the union. Could do it tmrw if they wanted to. But why pay union dues and give up stock options for nothing? Our safety record is 2x better than when the factory was UAW and everyone is already getting health care.

In Monday’s decision, the NLRB wrote that Tesla had a policy requiring “team attire” for production workers, which included black cotton shirts with the Tesla logo and black cotton pants without buttons, exposed rivets or zippers. Tesla provided workers with clothing.

During a spring 2017 UAW organizing drive, some production workers began wearing black cotton shirts with a small union logo on the front and a larger one on the back. Prior to August 2017, workers often wore shirts that weren’t black or had logos that weren’t Tesla-related. But around this time, the company began strictly enforcing the team dress policy, the NLRB wrote.

On Aug. 10, 2017, supervisors threatened to send two workers home for wearing union clothes, the board wrote. Tesla allowed workers to wear union stickers on required clothing.