Musk’s statement, in response to a tweeted question Monday, comes as Tesla is facing a federal labor complaint over accusations of union-busting.
As he sometimes does, Musk waded into a heated discussion on Twitter over a media report that he was aiming to dispute. The headline of the article was based on a recent Reveal report about worker-safety issues at Tesla’s Fremont factory, such as an alleged lack of yellow caution tape: “Report: Tesla Factory Workers Are in Danger Because Elon Musk Hates the Color Yellow.”
“Tesla factory literally has miles of painted yellow lines & tape,” Musk tweeted.
“Yellow is fine, got it,” responded David Atkins, the man who had tweeted the aforementioned article headline and whose Twitter bio says he’s from Canada. “How about unions?”
And Musk was off to the races.
“Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union,” Musk said. “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.”
That set off speculation on Twitter that Musk has threatened or is threatening to revoke the stock options of workers who unionize, with some asking him why Tesla workers couldn’t unionize and keep their stock options.
When reached Tuesday for comment, a Tesla spokeswoman said the company has nothing to add to the tweets.
When reached on Tuesday, a United Auto Workers spokeswoman said she would have no comment.
However, the UAW did tweet the following response Tuesday afternoon to Musk’s contention that nothing is stopping Tesla workers from unionizing: “Interesting tweets from Musk. Here’s what the NLRB had to say: ‘Respondent has been interfering with, restraining and coercing employees in the exercise of their rights guaranteed in Section 7 of the Act in violation of Sections 8(a)(1) of the Act.’ “
And in case we didn’t already know, Musk again made his feelings clear about unions, which he has said have allegiance to the “big car companies.”
“Also, UAW did nada for job security in last recession,” he tweeted. “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.”
In a separate Twitter conversation, Musk responded to someone else that Tesla employees “can form a union whenever they want & there’s nothing I can do to stop them. California is a very pro-union state. They just don’t want to.”
That led to this question from @willardslammo: “Is that why Tesla is due before the NLRB in June to address complaints about union busting tactics including surveillance and harassment?”
“That means nothing,” Musk responded. “Literally your Mom could file for NLRB.”
Tesla fired a few hundred employees in October, prompting the UAW to file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board that includes allegations that workers who passed out leaflets or wore clothing supporting unions were threatened. There’s a hearing scheduled for June 11 at the Oakland office of the NLRB, where Tesla and the complainants are scheduled to appear before an administrative law judge.
(Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images)