Tesla Reportedly Hired a Firm to Monitor Its Employees Online During Union Push

Tesla Reportedly Hired a Firm to Monitor Its Employees Online During Union Push

Tesla CEO Elon Musk attends the opening of the Tesla factory Berlin Brandenburg in Gruenheide, Germany on March 22, 2022.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been trying to ward off union advocates for years.
Photo: Patrick Pleul (AP)

Tesla has reportedly been monitoring its employees’ social media activity, keeping tabs on discussions related to unfair labor practices and a sexual harassment lawsuit on Facebook and other platforms. Elon Musk’s electric vehicle company allegedly paid a public relations firm to creep on their employees as they tried to push for a union at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California, according to documents obtained by CNBC.

The documents detail the work assigned to MWW PR, the firm hired by Tesla in 2017 and 2018 when the push for the union was taking place. Invoices and other documents revealed that Tesla paid MWW PR to monitor a Facebook group for its employees, and to keep a lookout for comments on union organization efforts, labor communication plans, and media lists, as well as keep close tabs on union organizers. Tesla also wanted to monitor employee discussions on a sexual harassment claim filed in 2017 by one of its female engineers, who was later fired from the company. Musk is currently facing a recent allegation of sexual harassment from a SpaceX employee who claims that the billionaire exposed his erect penis and offered to buy her a horse in exchange for sex.

Current Tesla employees who spoke to CNBC said they believe the company is still monitoring their social media activity. The company’s communications policy, which was obtained by CNBC, states that managers should not access their employees’ social media pages unless it’s for a specific work-related reason.

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Tesla has been accused of trying to squash union efforts at the company, where its employees have often complained about being overworked and underpaid. Following unionization efforts by its employees, the National Labor Relations Board decided in March 2021 that Tesla repeatedly violated U.S. labor law over the past few years for trying to interfere with the push for a union. Musk was in hot water when he tweeted out a potential threat that employees could lose their stock options if they chose to unionize. The company also fired a union activist in 2017.

The documents regarding social media monitoring by the company come at a time when Musk is in the midst of a $44 billion deal to buy Twitter, a social media platform that the billionaire has been obsessing over for its supposed violation of free speech by mitigating its content for misinformation. Musk also recently gave his Tesla employees an ultimatum that they must return to office full-time or they would essentially be fired.

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