Tesla Inc. repeatedly violated U.S. labor law, including by firing a union activist, and must make CEO Elon Musk delete a threatening tweet from his personal account, the National Labor Relations Board ruled Thursday.
The ruling, issued by two Republican and one Democratic member of the agency, states that the electric-car maker must offer to reinstate the fired employee. The board members also ruled that Tesla broke the law by retaliating against another union activist, “coercively interrogating” union supporters and restricting employees from talking to reporters.
Tesla, which didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, has denied wrongdoing and has argued that Musk’s tweet was protected by the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. The labor board has five members, serving staggered terms. Republicans are slated to retain a majority there until August.
Musk’s 2018 tweet stated, “Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw (sic) if they wanted. But why pay union dues and give up stock options for nothing?”
In Thursday’s ruling, the board members wrote that the message “unlawfully threatened” Tesla’s employees by stating that they “would lose their stock options if they chose the Union” to represent them.
U.S. labor law allows companies to make negative predictions about the consequences if workers unionize, but prohibits them from threatening to punish employees for doing so. Musk has run afoul of U.S. agencies before: The Securities and Exchange Commission sued him in 2018 over a tweet claiming he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private, eventually leading to a settlement that requires a lawyer to pre-approve Musk’s tweets on some topics.