A unionization campaign has kicked off at Tesla’s second Gigafactory in upstate New York, as reported by Bloomberg News. Workers at the Buffalo plant have submitted their intent to unionize with the help of Workers United, which has been behind widespread organized labor efforts among Starbucks employees and, as the report notes, started at a store just a few miles away from the Tesla plant.
Employees at the facility sent Tesla CEO Elon Musk an email this week saying they intend to unionize. Musk has previously been hostile toward unionization efforts that included alleged threats and retaliation against employees and an anti-union tweet the NLRB is arguing he should delete (it remains online). If successful, this could be the first Tesla facility to form a union.
The Gigafactory 2 workers submitting the email are part of a group of over 800 analysts working on Tesla’s Autopilot software by labeling vision data. Some of the workers’ demands include pay raises and job security. Tesla laid off nearly 200 workers in California last year that were doing similar Autopilot training work.
Employees at Gigafactory 2 are also asking for a reduction in productivity pressures they say are negatively affecting their well-being. Workers speaking to Bloomberg News said Tesla uses computer and keyboard monitoring to track and time their tasks, leaving some to feel forced to skip bathroom breaks.
On Valentine’s Day, the employees plan to distribute themed flyers throughout the plant to get workers in the facility to visit a site and sign union cards.
Unionization efforts began before fall of last year, with communications facilitated through a Discord server. Then, after Tesla had reportedly closed an internal channel where employees voiced their issues, the workers moved forward with building an organizing committee. An employee at the plant, Sara Costantino, told Bloomberg News they don’t really have a voice within the company. “The voice we did have, they took away,” Costantino said.
Tesla has been hit with many legal complaints accusing the company of stymieing unionization efforts. In December, the NLRB claimed Tesla broke labor laws by telling its employees not to complain about working conditions to upper-level managers and to refrain from discussing pay with anyone. The NLRB also ruled last year that Tesla’s dress code policy that didn’t allow union swag was unlawful.
Other anti-union efforts included Musk going so far as to accuse the United Auto Workers (UAW) union organization of planting someone in Tesla’s Fremont factory to “agitate for a union” in 2017. Musk has previously claimed he’s not anti-union, inviting the UAW to hold a unionization vote at Tesla’s Fremont factory and saying the company “will do nothing to stop them.”