Tesla employees at the company’s Buffalo Gigafactory have filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) accusing Twitter of “shadow-banning” their newly created union account, according to vice news. The group announced their intention to join a union on Feb. 14 — they even posted one public statement on Twitter about “looking for a voice at work.” However, the group’s tweets stopped appearing in search results the next day, indicating that their account had been shadowed.
“In February 2023, immediately after workers announced a union campaign at the Tesla Gigafactory 2 facility, the aforementioned employer, through CEO Elon Musk and/or its agents and representatives, caused the union Twitter account (@united_tesla) to was shadowed from the Twitter platform,” the group said in an NLRB filing filed by Workers United, the union backing the campaign.
We confirmed that when you search for “united_tesla” or “TeslaWorkersUnited”, the results do not include tweets posted by the account itself. Usually, searching for a user will bring up their tweets, but when you use those search terms, you’ll only see results that tag the group or mention their name. That says a spokesman for the group vice news that they ran a shadow ban test and found that their account was “search suggestion banned” on the one platform [their] employer owns.
Tesla chief Elon Musk, who bought Twitter for $44 billion last year, is known as a staunch union critic. In 2018, he tweeted that there was nothing stopping Tesla employees from joining a union in response to someone asking about reports that the company had an anti-union board. However, he also asked: “[W]he pays union dues [and] give up stock options for nothing[?]The NLRB ruled that the tweet violated labor laws and considered it a threat that employees would give up company-paid stock options if they join a union. It also asked Musk to remove his tweet, which he has yet to do do, as Tesla is currently appealing the decision of the Labor Commission.
The employees behind this particular campaign are responsible for labeling data from Tesla’s Autopilot technology. They told before Bloomberg that they ask the company not only for better pay, but also for better working conditions. The employees said that Tesla monitors their keystrokes to determine how much time they spend on each task, which has forced them to skip the bathroom break. They also accused the company of illegally firing employees “in retaliation for … and to discourage union activity”.
In a blog post, Tesla said this was a “false accusation” and that the fired Autopilot employees were performing poorly. It said the company conducts performance reviews every six months and that despite the feedback received, affected employees were not “showing sufficient improvement”. Further, the company said it had identified the workers it would lay off on Feb. 3, long before the group announced they wanted to join a union. The automaker also said it only implements time tracking “to calculate how long it takes to label an image,” so “there’s nothing to be gained by delaying toilet breaks.”
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