New details have emerged about Tesla’s response to unionization efforts, including the fact that the company monitored an employee Facebook group to keep tabs on developments.
Tech companies have a complicated relationship with unionization efforts. Until recently, unions within the tech industry were almost unheard of and many companies are aggressively fighting recent organization efforts. According to CNBC, Tesla hired a PR firm to help monitor an employee Facebook group, as well as employees’ broader social media, during unionization efforts in 2017.
MWW PR was the firm Tesla hired. The firm primarily monitored discussions about a sexual harassment lawsuit and allegedly unfair labor practices within the company.
“MWW consulted with Tesla in 2017-2018 on a broad employee communications engagement during a period of rapid growth at the Company,” a spokesperson told CNBC. “It is a common practice to review media coverage and public social conversation about a company to gain insights into issues and perceptions of stakeholders about the brand.”
While Tesla may not have broken any laws with its actions, the revelation is not sitting well with many experts.
“Any organization can engage in ‘social listening,’ using publicly available social media data to gain insights for product development, or to understand voters, public and employee sentiment and more,” Jennifer M. Grygiel, a Syracuse University associate professor, said. “But there are laws in the US that protect the rights of people to organize. If you’re a PR firm, or a manager who has to infiltrate a semi-private group? That’s dishonest. And I doubt Tesla would send a PR firm to figure out how to support workers involved in organizing.”