Tesla employees at the company’s Buffalo Gigafactory have filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) accusing Twitter of ‘shadowbanning’ their new union account, according to Vice News. The group announced its intention to unionize on February 14 — they even posted a public statement on Twitter about “looking for a voice at work”. However, the group’s tweets stopped appearing in search results the following day, indicating that their account had been banned.
“In February 2023, immediately after workers announced a labor campaign at Tesla Gigafactory 2, the aforementioned employer, through CEO Elon Musk and/or his agents and representatives, had the account banned. Union Twitter (@united_tesla) Twitter platform,” the group said in an NLRB filing filed by Workers United, the union supporting the campaign.
We’ve confirmed that when you search for “united_tesla” or “TeslaWorkersUnited”, the results don’t include any tweets posted by the account itself. Usually, searching for a user brings up their tweets, but when you use these search terms, you’ll only see results tagging the group or mentioning their name. A spokesperson for the group said Vice News that they performed a shadowban test and discovered that their account “had been ‘search suggestion banned’ on the only platform that (their) employer owns”.
Tesla chief Elon Musk, who bought Twitter for $44 billion last year, is known to be a staunch labor critic. In 2018, he tweeted that nothing was stopping Tesla workers from joining a union in response to someone asking about reports that the company had anti-union leadership. However, he also asked, “(Why) pay union dues (and) give up stock options for nothing (?)” The NLRB ruled the tweet violated labor laws, considering it a threat that employees will leave the company-paid stock options if they unionize. He also asked Musk to delete his tweet, which he has yet to do as Tesla is currently appealing the labor board’s decision.
The workers behind this particular campaign are responsible for labeling data from Tesla’s Autopilot technology. They said before Bloomberg that they ask the company not only for a better salary, but also for better working conditions. Workers said Tesla monitored their keystrokes to determine how long they spent on each task, so they had to skip bathroom breaks. They also accused the company of unlawfully dismissing employees “in retaliation for…and to discourage union activity.”
In a blog post, Tesla said it was a “false allegation” and that the terminated Autopilot employees were performing poorly. He said the company conducted performance reviews every six months and affected workers had not “demonstrated sufficient improvement” despite the feedback they had received. Additionally, the company said it had identified the employees it was going to lay off on Feb. 3, long before the group announced it was looking to unionize. The automaker also said it only implements time monitoring “to calculate how long it takes to tag an image,” so “there’s nothing to be gained by delaying bathroom breaks.”
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