Tesla HR chief suggested ‘promoting’ UAW advocates


Tesla Inc.’s human resources boss emailed with Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk about offering employees promotions that could prevent them from continuing their advocacy for unionisation.
“I saw it as positive they get involved in something they were criticising,” Gaby Toledano, who joined Tesla as “chief people officer” in May 2017 testified in a National Labor Relations Board hearing in Oakland when she was presented with the emails. Toledano recently resigned from the company while on a leave of absence.
A regional director of the labour board has alleged in a complaint that Tesla management violated federal laws by restricting employees from organising activities, maintaining a strict confidentiality policy that infringed on workers’ rights, trying to stop employees from discussing safety issues and retaliating against pro-union workers.
Tesla has stated that the NLRB allegations are all “false.”
Toledano acknowledged having suggested, in emails with Musk sent the following week, having employee Jose Moran and another union supporter become full-time safety staff rather than “work to pull in the UAW.” Toledano wrote, “I am confirming now with Legal that if they join the Safety team then they would then be considered part of management and not eligible to advocate for a union should they accept those roles.”
In the emails, which were uncovered as part of the labour board’s investigation, Musk wrote “Exactly” in response to an email from Toledano in which she said that making Moran and a comrade full-time safety staff would be an “Amazing way to turn adversaries into those responsible for the problem.”
The email chain also includes an earlier one in which Musk told Tesla’s former health and safety head, Seth Woody, that he would ask Moran and another union supporter “to join your team full time, so long as they do so in good faith and are truly as committed as they claim to safety.”
Tesla encourages anyone who has ideas on how to improve safety to get involved with the safety team, a spokeswoman said. Moran and his colleague expressed interest in helping to improve safety at Tesla, so the company explored ways to provide them with roles that would allow them to most effectively do that, she said.
Toledano testified that she didn’t know of any promotions of union advocates to salaried safety positions taking place. She said that responding to unionisation efforts at Tesla never came up when she was being interviewed prior to accepting the job.
Moran was — and remains — the most visible face of the UAW’s campaign at Tesla, and prior to the meeting with Musk had distributed union leaflets and a petition about safety. He also wrote an essay to announce the organising effort that was published on Medium.com.
Toledano denied allegations made by Moran that in a June 2017 meeting Toledano asked him and a co-worker why employees would want to pay union dues. Toledano also denied Moran’s claim that in the same meeting Musk told the employees that UAW representation would leave him voiceless, and that the automaker nonetheless would let workers have a union if their safety concerns weren’t addressed.

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