Tesla fires Buffalo factory employees a day after they announced a union drive

Employees say the firings were ‘retaliation’ for their organising efforts

Richard Hall
Thursday 16 February 2023 17:56 GMT
Tesla Workers Union
Tesla Workers Union (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Tesla has fired more than 30 people at a factory in Buffalo just one day after workers there started a union drive.

A group of employees at the electric car and solar energy company’s Gigafactory announced their intention to form a union on 14 Feburary, saying in an open letter they aimed to “further the mission of sustainability and foster a progressive environment for us all."

The notice of dismissals came the day after and included staff members involved in the union campaign.

Arian Berek, a member of the union organising committee, was among those let go.

“I feel blind sided, I got COVID and was out of the office, then I had to take a bereavement leave. I returned to work, was told I was exceeding expectations and then Wednesday came along. I strongly feel this is in retaliation to the committee announcement and it’s shameful,” Berek said in a statement.

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has been openly hostile to previous union organising efforts at the company in the past. The company was found to have broken the law when it fired a worker involved in a union drive at a factory in California. A threat by Mr Musk to withdraw stock options for workers if they unionised was also found to be illegal.

Sara Costantino, a current Tesla employee and organising committee member, said in a press release following the Wednesday dismissals: “We’re angry. This won’t slow us down. This won’t stop us. They want us to be scared, but I think they just started a stampede. We can do this. But I believe we will do this.”

Originally a steel manufacturing site, the Tesla factory in Buffalo makes solar panels and solar cells.

In its open letter announcing their intention to start a union, the Tesla employees said their efforts would provide greater “sustainability” in their jobs.

“Unionizing will further accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy, because it will give us a voice in our workplace and in the goals we set for ourselves to accomplish. Having greater sustainability in our own work lives and individual well-being will translate into greater ability to meet those goals, which is why we strongly believe that sustainability starts with us,” they wrote.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in