Tesla Denies It Fired 800 Workers At New York Factory

Industry News / 6 Comments

The EV automaker presents a list of facts of what it claims is really happening.

Tesla has responded to claims as "false allegations" that it fired around 800 workers following their attempt to unionize at its Buffalo, New York factory. In a detailed blog post, the EV automaker has presented its side of the story and it's quite different than what was reported earlier this week. But let's go back for a brief moment.

These factory workers are tasked with labeling data for Tesla's controversial Autopilot semi-autonomous system as well as making solar panels. One day after announcing their goal to unionize, they claim to have received an email from Tesla stating their termination. The employees are being represented by the Workers United group, which immediately filed a complaint with the US National Labor Relations Board.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk already has a contentious relationship with unions following a 2017 unionization effort by workers at the Fremont, California factory, home of the Model S and Model X. So what's really going on in New York?

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According to Tesla, it conducts performance review cycles every six months at all of its factories everywhere in the world. Buffalo is no exception.

Employees receive a 1 to 5 rating that "helps them calibrate their work with the expectations of their job." An employee will be "let go" if they fail to meet those expectations. The last performance review was from July 2022 to December 2022, and managers were notified that "exits for low performers would start the week of February 12, 2023." At Buffalo, approximately 4% of the employees were let go based on their performance review. They also supposedly received prior "feedback on their poor performance over the course of the review period."

Tesla is essentially saying they were given the chance to improve but failed to do so. These individuals were then notified on February 3 they were being fired - "well before the union campaign was announced." Tesla says it was made aware of the campaign 10 days later, and points out it "learned in hindsight that one out of the 27 impacted employees officially identified as part of the union campaign."

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Again, this happened before the union campaign kicked off. The carmaker further states that the Buffalo labeling team has been growing fairly rapidly over the past few months "at an average rate of around 10 employees a week." In the last six months alone it grew from 437 employees to 675.

Tesla also defends why employees are being time monitored, one of the employees' grievances. The purpose is "to calculate how long it takes to label an image… in order to improve the ease of our labeling software." Employees complained their bathroom break times are also being monitored but Tesla adds that "there is nothing to be gained by delaying bathroom breaks… [and that pressuring] employees to do so is categorically false."

There are clearly two sides to this whole thing and in all likelihood, a negotiated settlement will ultimately happen, with or without a court's involvement.

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