Twitter Fallout: Musk’s UAW Tweet Leaves Him Wide Open, Says ex-NLRB Head

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Elon Musk + Tesla Model S Circa 2011

Each day brings new reasons why no one should ever waste their precious earthly moments on Twitter, yet many of us keep up the practice. If we’re not seen doing things on social media, are we really alive? Are we really part of modern society?

Maybe that’s a discussion best left for another time. Regardless, heated back-and-forths on publicly visible platforms have a way of complicating one’s life, and a former National Labor Relations Board head claims Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s recent tweetstorm could land him in hot water.

It’s no secret that Musk prefers his Fremont, California assembly plant to remain untouched by union representation. Increased labor costs, work stoppages due to labor action — the beancounter-type reasons for any automaker to avoid the UAW are obvious. The CEO has made his view of the United Auto Workers pretty clear, especially in light of recent organizing attempts and the resulting fallout.

Still, it seems Musk felt it wasn’t clear enough.

When asked about his view on unions via Twitter Monday, Musk replied, “Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing? Our safety record is 2X better than when plant was UAW & everybody already gets healthcare.”

He followed it up with, “Also, UAW did nada for job security in last recession. Dropped Fremont like a hot potato to protect their core base in Detroit. UAW *chose* to exit this plant before Tesla even arrived. We had nothing to do with UAW leaving, but everything to do with why people here have jobs.”

The Fremont plant was formerly home to General Motors, and later a UAW-represented GM-Toyota joint assembly plant, before GM’s bankruptcy left it in limbo. Tesla purchased it in 2010, but its brief partnership with Toyota went nowhere. The Japanese automaker sold off the last of its Tesla shares last year.

Shortly after Musk posted his reply, the UAW joined the online fray. The union replied with a link to a 2017 NLRB hearing.

The eyebrows raised by that earlier tweet were numerous, with some saying it contained a veiled threat to dissuade workers from organizing. Wilma Liebman, former chair of the NLRB, told Bloomberg, “If you threaten to take away benefits because people unionize, that’s an out-and-out violation of the labor law.”

Musk would have been better off claiming union bargaining could erode some of their benefits, she added.

It seems Musk didn’t need the advice to cover his ass. Yesterday afternoon, when asked by a Twitter user with “Champagne socialist” in his bio whether he’d take away benefits from unionized workers, Musk responsed:

 

A couple of hours later, Musk challenged his questioner’s viewpoints, saying that perhaps he should explore just how much support the UAW has among Tesla’s workforce. “Let’s hold a vote & find out,” he tweeted.

[Image: Tesla]