A recent ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stated that Tesla did not violate U.S. labor law by prohibiting workers at its flagship assembly plant in Fremont, California, from wearing pro-union t-shirts. The court determined that Tesla’s uniform policy, which required all employees to wear company-issued shirts while allowing them to display union stickers, was lawful. This decision reverses a previous ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which deemed any attempt to ban union insignia unlawful unless specific safety concerns were present.
The electric vehicle manufacturer implemented its uniform policy in 2017 during an organizing campaign by the United Auto Workers union (UAW). The UAW has accused Tesla of employing illegal tactics to impede organizing efforts, allegations that the company has denied. Despite this legal victory, the UAW has expressed its intention to aggressively organize at non-union auto plants across the U.S., following successful contract negotiations with the Detroit Three automakers.
While Tesla’s policy required employees to wear black shirts emblazoned with the company logo, it still allowed workers to attach any number or size of union stickers to their team wear. Consequently, the court concluded that Tesla’s uniform policy did not interfere with union organizing and was therefore not in violation of labor law.
This ruling follows Elon Musk’s recent declaration that Tesla aims to produce 200,000 Cybertrucks annually. Musk, Tesla’s CEO, has also often highlighted the company’s competitive pay and stock benefits, asserting that they surpass what auto workers typically receive from unions.
Tesla and the NLRB have yet to provide any comment regarding the court’s decision. As for the ongoing legal battle, the full 5th Circuit is separately reviewing Tesla’s appeal of an NLRB ruling that found Musk guilty of violating labor law through a tweet in 2018, where he stated that employees would lose stock options if they joined a union.