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UAW files complaint over Musk tweet about Tesla worker benfits

© AFP | A tweet about stock options landed Elon Musk, the co-founder and chief executive of Electric carmaker Tesla, with a formal complaint from United Auto Workers

DETROIT (AFP) - 

The United Auto Workers union said Thursday it had filed a formal complaint against Elon Musk, head of electric auto maker Tesla, for a tweet in which he appeared to threaten worker benefits.

Outgoing UAW President Dennis Williams said Musk violated workers' rights by "threatening to take away employee stock options in retaliation for Tesla employees engaging in protected union activity."

The union lodged a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, yet another in a list of grievances against the automaker, which the UAW says has tried to intimidate workers into rejecting a bid to unionize.

In a response to a question about unions on Twitter on Sunday, Musk said, "Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing? Our safety record is 2X better than when plant was UAW & everybody already gets healthcare."

The tweet, which went out to Musk's 21.8 million Twitter followers, "has been shared and republished by numerous individuals and media outlets and remains publicly accessible at the time of this filing," the union complaint said.

A Tesla spokesperson said the tweet was making a factual point about UAW contracts.

- Voting on UAW membership -

"Elon's tweet was simply a recognition of the fact that unlike Tesla, we're not aware of a single UAW-represented automaker that provides stock options or restricted stock units to their production employees, and UAW organizers have consistently dismissed the value of Tesla equity as part of our compensation package," the official said in an email to AFP.

The UAW has frequently sparred with Musk while moving to organize workers at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California in recent years.

Williams said his successor, who will be installed next month, will decide on when the union will ask the NLRB to call a vote at the plant, which employs some 9,000 workers.

In another tweet in the same conversation, Musk questioned the union's past performance at the Fremont plant.

"Also, UAW did nada for job security in last recession. Dropped Fremont like a hot potato to protect their core base in Detroit. UAW *chose* to exit this plant before Tesla even arrived. We had nothing to do with UAW leaving but everything to do with why people here have jobs."

In a previous complaint filed with the NLRB, the union accused Tesla of firing workers to discourage, or in retaliation for union activity and also of disciplining employees who wore the UAW emblem.

© 2018 AFP