U.S. Labor Judge Rules That Tesla Interfered With Union Organizing

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Tesla is ruled to have interfered with union organizing, Fiat Chrysler owes a lot of money over misleading sales figures, Maserati looks toward our electric and autonomous future, more lawsuits over the Trump administration’s efforts to block California from setting emissions rules, and more on the General Motors strike. All of this and more in The Morning Shift for Monday, Sept. 30, 2019.

1st Gear: Tesla And The NLRA

A labor judge ruled last week that Tesla broke labor law by interfering with union organization, Reuters reports, committing “a series of violations” of the National Labor Relations Act in the years 2017 and 2018.

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With the ruling, the story said, Tesla must explain employees’ rights to them in a meeting that will require the attendance of CEO Elon Musk. Either Musk or his agent must tell employees that the National Labor Relations Board found Tesla to have broken the law, Reuters reports.

Reuters wrote that Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment last week, but that one of the violations cited was a tweet by Musk in May of last year. The post said Tesla workers could vote to unionize “tmrw if they wanted,” but there’s always a “but.”

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“But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing?” the post said. “Our safety record is 2X better than when plant was UAW & everybody already gets healthcare.” The judge ruled, according to Reuters, that the post threatened loss of stock options if they voted for unionization.

From Reuters:

In the past, the company has been plagued by safety complaints brought by workers, allegations that Tesla denies. Workers have said that long hours and pressure to deliver vehicles quickly takes a toll, and some have pushed for a union.

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Soon, they’ll be reminded of their rights in pushing for one.

2nd Gear: FCA Owes More Than $40 Million For Misleading Investors Over Sales Figures

Much like many of us when the monthly bills come around, Fiat Chrysler is about to be out of a lot of money. And much like we’re apt to fudge just how much we spent at the store last weekend when our partner asks, FCA owes the money because it was found to have misled investors over sales figures.

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The money owed is a total of $40 million and it’ll resolve a probe by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, according to Reuters. The findings of the probe are pretty damning, and Reuters reports that FCA U.S. used “a series of fraudulent moves” from 2012 through 2016 to celebrate a “streak” of monthly sales growth, “when it had actually ended in September 2013.” Oh.

From the story:

In July 2016, the company revised more than five years of monthly U.S. vehicle sales figures to reflect a new reporting method, amid an investigation by federal authorities including the U.S. Justice Department.

The SEC said Fiat Chrysler put pressure on its business centers “to increase sales, maintain the year-over-year sales streak, and hit internal sales targets, particularly on the last sales day of the month” and as a result some employees at most of the Business Centers “engaged in fake sales reporting.”

Dealers were paid to report fake sales in a company database using “cooperative marketing funds” to disguise the payments, the SEC said, adding the database “contained false vehicle sales entries, including false customer names and dates of sales.”

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So, yeah, maybe don’t feel so bad about rounding down how much money you spent at the store last weekend. At least you haven’t been doing it for five years straight and broadcasting it to the world, right?

3rd Gear: Maserati Wants EVs And Autonomy

Maserati has some extra money sitting around courtesy of a recent Fiat Chrysler investment, and according to an emailed press release, it already knows where that money is going. The release said all new models will be made in Italy, and that their hybrid and electric elements will combine “innovation and the high performance embedded in the brand’s DNA.”

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Maserati was vague on what that actually means, but the plan is focused around autonomy and electrification, the release said:

All new Maserati including the updated current models, will offer a range of autonomous driving capabilities, starting with Maserati Level 2 enhanced Highway Assist progressing to Level 3 with hands-off offering close to full autonomy, having the ability to maneuver in and out of lanes or bring the vehicle to a safe stop at the side of the road if the driver is unable to take control of the vehicle.

In 2020, the Company will embark on electrification and the Maserati Ghibli, produced in Turin, will be the first hybrid electric propulsion for the brand.

Next up will be a new Maserati utility vehicle, set to be built at Cassino and destined to play a leading role for the Brand thanks to its innovative technologies.

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There will also be a paint shop allowing customers to watch their vehicle get colored, the release said. It’ll be like going to Shipley Donuts and watching the food get made, except with cars.

4th Gear: Environmental Groups Sue Over Trump Attempts To Bar California From Setting Emissions Rules

Nine American environmental groups filed lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Transportation last week over its attempts to keep California from setting its own emissions rules and requirements for electric vehicles, Reuters reports. The Trump administration and California don’t get along, you might remember, as one wants to increase emissions for no logical reason and the other wants to lower them for the good of the planet.

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The groups add to the lawsuits over the emissions fight, as earlier this month, nearly half of the states in the U.S. sued over the intent to reverse state-set emissions standards. The department declined to comment to Reuters when asked last week, the story said.

From Reuters:

For decades, California has played a national role in influencing what Americans drive. The state’s vehicle emissions rules, more stringent than the Trump EPA’s rules, are followed by a dozen other states that account for more than 40% of U.S. vehicle sales.

This week, Minnesota and New Mexico rebuffed the Trump administration and said they planned to adopt California’s tailpipe rules. [...]

The suit challenges the determination unveiled last week by the Transportation Department and its agency the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, that federal law preempts state and local regulation of vehicle fuel economy.

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We need the environment to survive, so it might be smart of us to avoid killing the environment.

5th Gear: What UAW Workers Are Looking For In A Contract

The United Auto Workers are on strike while negotiating a new union contract with General Motors, but, like all contract negotiations, agreeing on the end product is difficult. Not only do management and the workers have to agree, but all of the workers have to be on the same page about what they want. That’s hard, as different people have different priorities.

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Automotive News has a breakdown of what things are like on the strike lines as far as contract feelings go right now, and mentioned that the longer workers are on strike, the more they have to weigh whether the strike was worth it in terms of the contract presented. (GM, if you’ll remember, cut off striking employees’ healthcare soon after the strike began, highlighting how risky it is to walk off of the job in attempts to get a better contract. The company later reinstated it.)

Here’s some of how people feel, via Automotive News:

Getting contracts ratified already looked like a bigger challenge than usual going into this year’s talks, as years of multibillion-dollar profits by the Detroit 3 stoked eagerness to reverse past concessions. [...]

“I don’t think you ever get a deal that you want, but you have to get one that you can live with,” Scott Ferguson, a paint repair worker at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, said outside the plant Thursday, Sept. 26, the 11th day of the strike.

GM’s “first serious offer,” as a top UAW official described the automaker’s Sept. 15 proposal, included $7 billion in U.S. investment, keeping some jobs at two assembly plants targeted for closure, annual wage increases or lump-sum payments, $8,000 ratification bonuses and improved profit sharing. Experts say that offer, which GM took the unusual step of publicizing in the hours before the strike, may have raised the bar for what it will take to earn a “yes” vote.

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The story discusses the contract in terms of worker wants and the situations surrounding negotiations, such as the UAW corruption, plans for plant closures, and giving temporary workers a path to full-time employment. It can be read in full here.

Reverse: Rocket Man

On Sept. 30, 1929, Fritz von Opel made the first flight in a rocket-propelled airplane in Frankfurt, Germany, according to a New York Times obituary upon his death in 1971. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because his grandfather founded Opel.

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From the story:

He flew 1¼ miles in as many minutes at an altitude averaging 49 feet. The plane was, wrecked in landing, but he escaped unhurt.

In an article in The New York Times after the flight, he wrote:

“It is marvelous to fly like this, driven entirely by fire gases which escape from the, nozzle at a speed of about 5,000 miles an hour. When we are able to make full use of this gas we shall be able to fly around the world under five hours.”

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If only flying around the world in less than five hours was the norm.

Neutral: How Do You See The Emissions Fight Ending?

How much longer does this last? Where does it go next?

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About the author

Alanis King

Alanis King is a staff writer at Jalopnik.