Tesla Fremont California Winnietam Dreamstime 5eb97845e4044

NLRB Finds Tesla Unlawfully Restricted Union Apparel

Aug. 31, 2022
“Wearing union insignia, whether a button or a t-shirt, is a critical form of protected communication,” said NLRB Chairman Lauren McFarren, in a statement.

In a decision Monday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Tesla Inc. was unlawfully restricting its employees from displaying union insignia. In a 3-2 ruling August 29, the NLRB found that any company restriction on wearing union apparel are “presumptively unlawful” unless the company gives a good reason.

The Tesla policy targeted by the decision requires that company employees wear one of two t-shirts: a plain black t-shirt, or a black t-shirt with a company logo. Black t-shirts displaying union iconography were restricted, according to the UAW, which brought the initial complaint alongside Tesla employees.

A previous NLRB standard, set in 2019 in a case with Wal-Mart, held that employers could restrict union apparel without giving special circumstances as long as they didn’t completely prohibit employees from wearing union insignia. Monday’s decision overrules the 2019 decision, Wal-Mart Inc., 368 NLRB No. 146 (2019), and reinstates an earlier standard, Republic Aviation Corp. v. NLRB, 324 U.S. 793 (1945), which requires employers that “interfere in any way” with an employee’s right to display union iconography have to provide special circumstances justifying the interference.

In a statement, NLRB Chairman Lauren McFarren said that wearing union apparel has a history for employees organizing unions and protesting against poor conditions.

“Wearing union insignia, whether a button or a t-shirt, is a critical form of protected communication,” McFerran said. “With today’s decision, the Board reaffirms that any attempt to restrict the wearing of union clothing or insignia is presumptively unlawful and—consistent with Supreme Court precedent—an employer has a heightened burden to justify attempts to limit this important right.”

Neither Tesla nor its public face, CEO Elon Musk, have commented publicly on the ruling.

United Auto Workers President Ray Curry hailed the NLRB decision, calling the overruled 2019 standard a “Trump-era NLRB decision” that “strengthened the hand of employers in their ability to restrict worker expression on the shop floor,” but expressed regret that the decision took four years after Tesla workers and the UAW initially filed objections.

“Our union commends this decision,” Curry said in a statement. “Worker expression is a statement of solidarity during organizing. As a result of this decision which the UAW fought for, workers can feel more secure in their pro-union expression today as they work to form their unions.” 

Popular Sponsored Recommendations

The Future of Manufacturing – How Will it Evolve?

April 18, 2023
Manufacturing is in a constant race for productivity and efficiency. This report discusses the challenges and opportunities manufacturers face and how integrated communication...

Food and Beverage 2024 Trends and Outlook for North America

Oct. 29, 2023
Ready to hear what 200 of your peers said are the top challenges and opportunities in 2024? Don’t fall behind. Uncover actionable insights to better prepare for 2024 in this whitepaper...

From Data to Action: Enabling the Connected Enterprise with a Digital Thread

Feb. 8, 2024
Manufacturers are transforming the enterprise with cloud technologies and IoT

Enabling Predictive Maintenance of Rotating Equipment

Jan. 23, 2022
How can industrial businesses secure equipment reliability and ensure operational efficiency? Download the white paper to learn more about the benefits of a holistic system maintenance...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of IndustryWeek, create an account today!