Tesla Inc.'s trial before a National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge began with a lawyer for the electric-car maker accusing the United Auto Workers of waging a smear campaign on its CEO, Elon Musk.
"That's what this trial is -- it's a gotcha moment," Tesla attorney Mark Ross said during his opening statement from the federal building and U.S. courthouse in Oakland, California. "This entire trial is an infomercial in an effort to place Mr. Musk and the company in a negative light."
Ross spoke after opening statements by attorneys for the National Labor Relations Board's general counsel and the UAW.
The judge in the case is considering allegations that Tesla management violated federal labor laws by restricting employees from organizing activities, maintaining a strict confidentiality policy that infringed on workers' rights, trying to stop employees from discussing safety issues and retaliating against pro-union workers. The company has said the claims have no merit.
"What we see is a very heavy-handed anti-union campaign which has affected all levels of workers' lives," UAW attorney Margo Feinberg told the administrative law judge. Feinberg cited a recent tweet by Musk as evidence of Musk's "targeting" of workers who have been leaders in the unionizing effort.