Electric vehicle manufacturer, Tesla, has denied allegations that it terminated employees at its Buffalo, New York Autopilot facility in response to a union campaign. Last week, workers at the facility sent a letter to Tesla CEO Elon Musk stating their intention to unionize. The campaign’s organizers subsequently accused the company of illegally firing employees in retaliation. However, in a blog post, Tesla called the accusation a “false allegation” and said that those who were let go lost their jobs due to their own poor performance.
According to Tesla, the company conducts performance reviews every six months and workers are graded from 1 to 5 for each cycle. The most recent review cycle took place from July 2022 through December 2022, and the company said it identified the employees who would be let go on February 3rd, over a week before the union campaign was announced. Managers were also reportedly informed in December that low performers would be exiting the company on the week of February 12th.
Tesla explained that 4% of the employees on the Autopilot labeling team were let go due to poor performance reviews, and that only one of the 27 impacted employees was part of the union campaign. The workers in Buffalo, who are responsible for labeling data for Autopilot, had previously told Bloomberg that they were fighting for better pay and working conditions that reduce production pressures. The workers also claimed that Tesla monitored their keystrokes to determine how much time they spent on each task, resulting in them skipping bathroom breaks. However, Tesla refuted this claim, stating that time monitoring was only used to calculate how long it took to label an image and that there was no benefit to delaying bathroom breaks.
Tesla did not address the workers’ complaint about not having a voice in the company’s decision-making. The workers had previously stated that talks of forming a union began after management shut down an internal chatroom where they could air their grievances. The company did not comment on this allegation in its response.