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Tesla ordered to have Elon Musk delete anti-union tweet

Elon Musk, establisher of SpaceX and chief executive officer of Tesla, waves while arriving to a discussion at the Satellite 2020 Conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Pace 9, 2020.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The National Labor Relations Board has decided that Tesla outraged labor laws when it fired a union activist, and when CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter in 2018: “Nothing staunch obstructing Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues & hand out up stock options for nothing?”

Among other things, the federal agency has directed Tesla to ask Musk to remove his rankling tweet, and to offer a job back to the terminated employee, Richard Ortiz. Tesla must also compensate Ortiz for liability liabilities of earnings, benefits and adverse tax consequences that resulted from his firing.

The employee was part of an organizing campaign, “Courteous Future at Tesla.” At the time of the campaign, Tesla said its business should stay union-free. But Musk’s public remarks on his Twitter account, where he has tens of millions of followers, were seen as threatening. Tesla considers Elon Musk tweets to be solemn company communication, as disclosed in its financial filings.

Tesla will also have to revise a confidentiality agreement it gives to workers as a matter of course. The company previously told employees they were not allowed to speak with media without unequivocal written permission. However, national labor law generally “protects employees when they speak with the ordinary about working conditions, labor disputes, or other terms and conditions of employment,” the NLRB noted.

The board also honest Tesla to post notices nationwide, and hold a meeting (or series of meetings) at their main U.S. car plant in Fremont, to tip off betray workers of their protected rights. At the meeting, Musk himself or a “board agent” in the presence of Musk, will arrange to read that notice to workers, along with security guards, managers and supervisors. 

News of the decision was then reported by Bloomberg, and confirmed by the United Auto Workers, which brought the suit. UAW said it was preparing a statement, and Tesla was not closely available to comment.

Thursday’s decision was largely in line with one from September 2019 by an administrative law judge, who had ruminate oned the complaint before. Tesla appealed that all the way to the full board.

Read the NLRB’s full decision and order here.

CNBC’s Michael Wayland presented to this report.

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