Tesla violated U.S. labor laws when CEO Elon Musk tweeted in May that his employees would lose their stock options if they organized a union, according to the National Labor Relations Board.
Musk drew some fire at the time, after appearing to claim that Tesla workers would lose their stock options if the United Auto Workers successfully organized the company’s assembly plant in Fremont, California.
“Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union,” Musk wrote. “Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing?”
The UAW lodged a complaint over the tweet with the NLRB a day later, and now, the labor agency says in a complaint filed last Thursday that Musk’s remark represented a violation of the National Labor Relations Act, by “interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees” involved in union activity protected under the law.
A Tesla spokesperson told Jalopnik in a statement that Musk’s tweet was “simply a recognition of the fact that unlike Tesla, we’re not aware of a single UAW-represented automaker that provides stock options or restricted stock units to their production employees, and UAW organizers have consistently dismissed the value of Tesla equity as part of our compensation package.”
“We fundamentally believe it’s critical that all employees be owners of Tesla so that everyone is on the same team, with all sharing in the company’s success,” the spokesperson said. “This has been highly successful and led to Tesla compensation being the highest in the auto industry.”
Musk’s voracious twitter habit has drawn the ire of Tesla investors in recent days, after the billionaire CEO haphazardly suggested earlier this month he had enough funding to buyout all Tesla shares at $420 each and take the company private.
When it became evident that he didn’t have a finalized deal in place, the Securities and Exchange Commission launched an investigation into whether the tweet violated federal laws. Investors have filed at least a half-dozen securities fraud lawsuits over the tweet.
After scuttling the take-private bid, Musk proclaimed he intended to curtail his slapdash tweets, only to follow up on Tuesday by claiming he never cried in an interview with The New York Times—as the newspaper reported earlier this month and stood by in a statement issued later in the day—and then doubled down on an earlier baseless accusation that a British diver involved in the Thai cave rescue was a pedophile.
Shortly after the UAW alleged Musk’s stock-option tweet of violating U.S. labor laws, he tried to elaborate by saying that his rationale for the comment was that the union doesn’t allow workers to own stock in the automaker. Wilma Liebman, a former NLRB chairwoman, told Bloomberg at the time that Musk’s tweet could be grounds a complaint by the labor agency, as, “The employee is going to hear it as, ‘If I vote to unionize, stock options will no longer be an option.’”
The NLRB already has an ongoing case against Tesla involving a series of alleged labor violations at the Fremont factory. The agency’s attorneys filed a motion Thursday to consolidate the stock-option complaint with that case. A judge followed up with an order on Friday, asking both the NLRB and Tesla to file briefings by Sept. 7 on whether or not the NLRB’s request to consolidate should be granted.
The trial over the NLRB’s case is set to resume Sept. 24.