Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla and SpaceX and owner of X Holdings Corp., speaks at the Milken Institute Global Conference at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on May 6, 2024 in Beverly Hills, California.

Apu Gomez | Getty Images

Tesla is accused of taking steps to prevent employees in Buffalo, N.Y., from unionizing, according to a complaint by the National Labor Relations Board.

On Tuesday, the NLRB’s regional director for Buffalo, Linda Leslie, filed the complaint. In it, she said Tesla had “promulgated and maintained” an acceptable workplace technology policy in 2023 that was intended to “discourage its employees from forming, joining or supporting a Union or engage in other concerted activities,” after allegations were made by members of Workers United.

CNBC obtained a copy of the complaint through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The policy restricted Tesla workers from “enrollment, unauthorized recruitment [sic] or promoting” and “creating channels and distribution lists,” among other things, the complaint said.

The NLRB also argued that the policy had the effect of “interfering with, restricting, and coercing employees in the exercise of rights guaranteed” under the National Labor Relations Act, which generally protects workers’ rights to discuss organizing, join a union, and to conduct collective negotiations for better pay and working conditions.

Tesla’s Buffalo plant was supposed to make solar panels, but more recently it’s been used to assemble electric vehicle charging equipment and house a team of AI data tagging software.

Last month, the Buffalo plant was home to a number of job cuts introduced as part of a broader restructuring of the electric vehicle company. According to a WARN notice filed in the state Tesla is cutting 285 jobs in New York state, mostly at the Buffalo factory. The company is cutting thousands of jobs worldwide after sales of electric cars fell in the first quarter.

Tesla and CEO Elon Musk have been at odds with union supporters for years and have been found to have engaged in union busting. In 2021, the NLRB ruled that Tesla violated labor laws when it fired a union activist and when Musk wrote on Twitter in 2018: “There is nothing stopping the Tesla team at our auto plant from voting for a union. They could do it tmrw if they wanted to. But why pay union dues and give up stock options for nothing?”

An administrative court ordered the executive director to remove the post. Tesla challenged the order, but its petition for reconsideration was denied. The post in question remains on Musk’s X account, where he has 182.7 million followers listed.

Tesla also faces labor rights challenges in Europe. Last year, Swedish service technicians went on strike, which continues today, with the labor group allowing authorized work to be carried out at times. Employees in Sweden, where most of the workplace is unionized, are seeking a collective bargaining agreement with Tesla.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read the complaint here: