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Over 30 workers have been fired from Tesla’s Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo, New York, the day after employees began unionization efforts.

Earlier this week employees sent an email to CEO Elon Musk announcing their intent to unionize. The firings began Wednesday.

Workers United, which worked with Tesla employees in their unionization drive, said the move is a clear attempt to frighten other workers. The union has filed a formal complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, citing illegal retaliation against employees. 

“This is a form of collective retaliation against the group of workers that started this organizing effort,” Workers United organizer Jaz Brisack said, “to terrify everyone about potential consequences of them organizing.”

In a press release, the union said at least one of the fired workers was involved in the unionization effort.

Gigafactory 2 is home to over 800 analysts who work to improve Tesla’s autopilot program. According to reports, working conditions have worsened among analysts, sparking the union drive. 

Complaints include more intense productivity quotas and heavy surveillance, including keystroke tracking. Workers are hoping to secure better pay and job security with the help of the union. 

According to the union, workers also received an email Wednesday informing them that recording company meetings without everyone’s consent is prohibited. Workers United says this contradicts New York’s one-party consent recording law. 

While Tesla or CEO Elon Musk has yet to comment on the reasoning for the firings, employees remain convinced they were retaliatory. 

“I returned to work (from COVID and bereavement leave), 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,” union committee member Arian Berek said in a press release. 

Tesla and Mr. Musk have faced intense criticism over their treatment of workers over the past few years. In 2017, Mr. Musk accused United Auto Workers of planting workers in his California factories to “agitate” for a union. In 2019, a California judge found the company guilty of anti-union activities, including harassing workers handing out union leaflets as well as interrogating union leaders. 

The layoffs could also be part of larger trends in the tech industry. Massive firings have plagued tech companies like Twitter and Meta as executives deal with rising interest rates and brace for a possible recession.

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