Union to Trump: We’ll fight to protect immigrant workers

Two days before Thanksgiving, hundreds of UNITE HERE members in Florida converged on President Trump’s luxury resort in Mar-a-Lago, Florida to protest his administration’s decision to terminate the temporary protected status (TPS) of Haitian immigrants, who fled Haiti after a 2010 earthquake devastated their country.

Thousands of Haitian immigrants living and working in the US under the TPS program work in the hospitality industry in Florida and the Northeast and are UNITE HERE members.

“DHS and the Trump administration decided to take away the livelihoods of 50,000 Haitians working legally in the US and turn them into targets of deportation,” said Maria Elena Durazo, general vice president of UNITE HERE explaining why the union was protesting.

The Department of Homeland Security on November 20 announced that it was revoking the temporary protected status of Haitians and that they would have to leave the US by July 2019 or face deportation.

“These TPS holders have lived and worked in this country for nearly a decade and have American-born children and deep roots in their communities,” Durazo said. “The Trump administration and DHS are criminalizing 50,000 legal workers and ripping tens of thousands of dedicated, committed workers from the hospitality industry.”

Durazo added that despite DHS’ decision, UNITE HERE will continue to fight for a solution that allows immigrants covered by TPS to remain in the US and provides them a path toward citizenship.

Congress in 1990 created the TPS program to allow immigrants fleeing from war, political repression, or natural disasters to live and work in the US without fear of deportation.

The law allows DHS to designate “a foreign country for TPS due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately.”

DHS regularly reviews the protected status of each country to determine whether to extend it.

Until recently, TPS was routinely extended without much fanfare, but that began to change in September when DHS terminated TPS for immigrants from Sudan.

Six weeks later DHS terminated TPS for people from Nicaragua.

The agency also left people from Honduras in limbo when it temporarily extended their TPS for another six months but added that “it is possible that the TPS designation for Honduras will be terminated at the end of the six-month automatic extension with an appropriate delay.”

DHS will be reviewing the TPS designation for people from El Salvador and Syria in March.

UNITE HERE members for the past several months have been talking directly to members of Congress urging them to find a way to support a solution that would allow TPS recipients to live their lives without the fear of deportation.

That action has paid off. Sen. Christopher Coons of Delaware and Rep. Darren Soto of Florida have introduced companion bills called the ASPIRE Act, which would allow people covered by TPS on January 1, 2017 to apply for permanent residency.

People granted permanent residency after a five-year waiting period can apply for US citizenship.

At the demonstration in Florida, Belinda Osorio a union housekeeper who came from Honduras 1991, told the Miami Herald  how DHS’ decision has affected her and her family.

“We are very scared. We don’t know what will happen. I will have to leave in the middle of the night so I won’t get arrested,” said Osorio to the Herald. “After working so many years, and working so hard, they want to tear us apart. We aren’t living off the government. We pay taxes. What we have, we worked for.”

Osorio is married to a US citizen and has two young children born in the US.

Her union has vowed to fight the threat to her and her family.

“We will not allow (President Trump) to quietly destroy 50,000 other families,” said Wendi Walsh, secretary-treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 355 in Miami. “UNITE HERE has and always will stand shoulder to shoulder with our immigrant workers.”

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Unions battle degree outsourcing at Eastern Michigan State University

Members of the unions representing faculty at Eastern Michigan State University (EMU) in Ypsilanti announced on November 15 that they are launching a media outreach campaign aimed at reversing a decision by the university’s administration to privatize some of its degree programs offered online.

“Without consulting faculty, EMU administrators have contracted with an out-of-state company to offer EMU-branded degrees entirely online,” said Judith Kullberg, president of EMU American Association of University Professors (EMU AAUP). “It appears that much of the actual student contact hours for these online degrees will be provided by online ‘coaches’ who don’t work for EMU and are paid extremely low wages. Our students deserve better.”

EMU in 2016 contracted with Academic Partnerships, a Texas-based company that markets online degrees from public universities that have established partnerships with the company.

Academic Partnerships’ uses low-wage coaches who assist and advise students using the company’s online programmed instruction.

These coaches are employed by an Academic Partnership subcontractor called Instructional Connections.

EMU’s contract with Academic Partnerships allows the company to collect half of the tuition and fees paid by online students that would otherwise go to EMU.

Randy Best is the founder and chairman of Academic Partnerships. Best is a Texas multi-millionaire, who, according to the Texas Observer, used his political connections to build his for-profit education business.

Best’s first foray as an educational entrepreneur was a business that provided online tutoring to public school students.

It grew substantially when Best was able to use his political contacts to sell his tutorial programs to schools trying to meet the goals established by the No Child Left Behind Act.

Best’s next big business venture–Academic Partnerships–provided online instruction that led to degrees at state universities in Texas.

Since then Best has expanded his online education business nationally and internationally.

Daric Thorne, president of EMU American Federation of Teachers, which represents full-time and part-time lecturers, said that there is a place for online instruction in higher education but that “it should never completely replace the outstanding teaching and scholarship we offer right here on campus.”

Academic Partnerships has already begun offering an EMU Bachelor’s degree in nursing and plans  to expand the number of degree plans it offers in January.

Outsourcing degree programs to for-profit businesses has been criticized because it exposes student to hidden risks.

A report by the Century Foundations finds that these kinds of partnerships between public universities and third-party, for-profit companies), “expose (students) to the same risks as for-profit colleges; however, because (the third parties) are operating on behalf of public institutions, none of the protections in place to prevent abuse by the proprietary education industry protect these students. This blindspot leaves consumers vulnerable.”

The report also says that these companies “driven by the desire and need to make money for investors or owners . . . may prioritize profit over the interests of online students, to whom they owe no loyalty, financial or otherwise.”

Ohio University had a contract with Academic Partnerships similar to the one with EMU but terminated the contract well before it was set to expire.

In an email sent to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Randy Leite, dean of Ohio University’s College of Health Science explained why.

“While Academic Partnerships helped us establish and grow our program, we found over time that the quality and level of service our students expected was not being met,” wrote Leite.

Leite added that the decision was made because the university “could better assure quality and service by maintaining (its) own program.”

In addition to being concerned about the quality of education that a for-profit company can provide, the two unions fighting the privatization effort at EMU were disturbed by the lack of transparency in the selection of Academic Partnerships.

Kullberg said that she didn’t know about the contract until she heard about it on a radio news program.

By that time, the contract had already been signed.

After Kullberg heard about the deal, EMU AAUP filed a grievance charging the university with an unfair labor practice by agreeing to the deal without consulting the faculty.

A hearing on the grievance has been held, and the union is awaiting a decision by an independent arbitrator.

In addition to filing a grievance, EMU AAUP and EMU AFT have launched TrueEMUTeaching, a print and online advertising campaign in the Eastern Echo, EMU’s student newspaper, and on Facebook.

The ads link to a petition urging the university’s board of regents to halt further implementation of the contract until more light can be shed on it.

“We have a responsibility – to our colleagues, to our students, to EMU alumni, and to Michigan taxpayers – to raise questions until we get solid answers,” said Kullberg. “The future direction of a public university like EMU should be discussed in the open, not behind closed doors.”

Lopsided win for union workers in Las Vegas

In a lopsided vote, 78 percent of the workers at Stations Casino’s Green Valley Ranch in the suburbs of Las Vegas voted to join the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and the Bartenders Union Local 165, both are affiliates of UNITE HERE.

The large margin of victory is notable, said D. Taylor, president of UNITE HERE, because it flies in the face of conventional wisdom about the status of the labor movement.

The union victory, said Taylor, “proves that the media narrative that labor is dying is untrue, but that working people can win against all odds when they organize together.”

The union win is the third recent victory for pro-union workers at Stations Casino properties in the Las Vegas area.

Taylor also said that the union victory at Green Valley Ranch was notable because it took place in a so-called right-to-work state where the state “rigs the laws against workers to take away their power.”

The roots of the Green Valley Ranch victory can be traced back to 2010 when hundreds Stations Casino workers from all over Las Vegas came together to form a union organizing committee.

Stations Casino is owned by Red Rock Resorts, a publicly traded company controlled by Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta.

The Fertitta brothers took exception with their workers’ desire for a voice on the job and fought the organizing drive every step of the way.

Among other things, they ran television ads in 2012 warning workers not to join the union.

They also hired a union avoidance company, which conducted an ongoing anti-union campaign at work.

But union supporters fought back with their own spirited campaign, and in September 2016 workers at Boulder Station, a hotel and casino located about 11 miles east of the famous Las Vegas Strip, voted to join UNITE HERE by a vote of 355 to 177.

Desperate to stave off further union victories at their properties, the Fertitta brothers announced that they would lower health insurance premiums for all of Stations non-union workers; however union workers, they said, would continue to pay the same higher premiums.

Two months later when another union vote took place at Palace Station, another Station hotel and casino located a few miles away from the Strip, the union narrowly lost by four votes.

UNITE HERE blamed the loss on Stations’ decision to punish its newly unionized Boulder workers with higher health care premiumS and filed charges with National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The NLRB ruled that Stations acted illegally by punishing workers for their pro-union vote, and in March reached an agreement with the company requiring it to recognize the union at both its Boulder and Palace properties.

The next union vote at a Stations’ property took place on November 8 and 9 at Green Valley Ranch, a luxury boutique casino resort located in Henderson, Nevada about 16  miles southeast of Las Vegas.

The union won by a vote of 564 to 166.

Workers at Green Valley Ranch said that they voted for the union because they wanted the same wages and union benefits as workers at union hotels and casinos on the Strip and in downtown Las Vegas.

“We voted ‘YES’ to join the Culinary Union because we deserve fair wages and good benefits,” said Gladis Sosa de Funes, a guest room attendant at Green Valley Ranch. “Everyone knows the Culinary Health Plan is the best health insurance in Las Vegas, and we want our families to have it.”

Michael Wagner, a bartender at Green Valley Ranch since 2001, said that the organizing campaign to win a union was long and hard but it was worth it.

“I’m happy to have been able to help organize my coworkers and I felt so proud to vote ‘YES’ for the union!” said Wagner. “I look forward to joining together with other Station Casinos workers in negotiations with the company so we can have a fair union contract soon.”

The win at Green Valley Ranch leaves seven other Stations’ properties in the Las Vegas area that are still non-union: Red Rock Resort, Palms Casino Resort, Santa Fe Station, Sunset Stations, Texas Stations, Fiesta Henderson, and Fiesta Station.

Local 226 has informed the public that there is still a labor dispute at these properties and urges people coming to Las Vegas for a vacation to patronize hotels and casinos listed at fairhotel.org.

Big win for “Tennessee Is Not For Sale” campaign

Leaders of four campuses that belong to the University of Tennessee System announced on October 31 that they would not participate in the state’s plan to privatize the jobs of workers who provide grounds keeping, maintenance, and landscaping services at their campuses.

The campuses rejecting the state privatization plan are the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, the University of Tennessee Martin, the University of Tennessee Knoxville, and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis.

Under the leadership of Gov. Bill Haslam, the state of Tennessee has proposed privatizing facilities management services at all state universities, prisons, and parks.

In April, the state selected Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), a multinational real estate company, to manage the privatization of these services.

But a vigorous “Tennessee Is Not For Sale” campaign led by United Campus Workers CWA Local 3865 (UCW) raised questions about the secret process that led to the selection of JLL, the unsupported claims that privatization would save money, and the improbable claims that no state employees would lose their jobs or benefits as a result of privatization.

Beverly Davenport, chancellor of the University of Tennessee Knoxville, said that her decision not to participate “was based on the extensive analyses of the financial considerations, the complexity of the work done on our research-intensive campus, and our commitment to the East Tennessee economy and our workforce.”

UCW called the decision not to participate in Gov. Haslam’s privatization scheme, “a victory for all of us here who made calls, sent emails, attended meetings and protests, lobbied their legislators, and so much more.”

Two years ago, Gov. Haslam, a billionaire described by the Intercept as ” the richest US elected official not named Donald Trump,” began laying the groundwork for the next phase of his ambitious privatization plans.

He organized a group high ranking state agency officials to plan the massive outsourcing project that would directly affect 10,000 grounds keepers, custodians, clerks, and skilled maintenance workers when fully implemented.

For months, they met in secret. When they were ready to write the request for proposals seeking bids for the project, they asked representatives of three companies that were likely to bid on project’s contract to help them write the proposal.

One of those companies was JLL.

In addition to helping write the request for proposal, JLL had another advantage that would make it the favorite to win the contract worth $330 million over five years.

Gov. Haslam had at one time been a JLL investor, and according to the Nashville Post, “it’s unclear whether or not he still holds stock in the company.”

The governor’s office said that Haslam has put his JLL investments in a blind trust.

To no one’s surprise, JLL in April was selected for the privatization project.

As soon as Gov. Haslam’s latest outsourcing plan was made public in 2015, UCW members began talking directly to state lawmakers to explain the impact that privatization would have on jobs in the lawmakers’ districts.

As a result, lawmakers from both parties raised concerns about lost jobs and the questionable practices that led up to the selection of JLL.

Over the next two years UCW members held demonstrations on campuses across the state, gathered signatures on petitions, wrote letters, and explained to the fellow workers what was at stake.

Their message was simple: “Privatization is a bad deal for the public. It’s bad for public employees whose jobs are lost. . . ,(and) it’s bad for taxpayers, who lose accountability and oversight of their tax dollars as shadowy multinational corporations take over.”

Supporters of the privatization effort said that no workers would lose their jobs or their benefits, but UCW members said that there were plenty of loopholes in JLL’s contract  that would lead to lesser pay, lesser benefits, and the loss of jobs.

The contract only requires that workers affected by privatization be provided total equal compensation, which means that the company could eliminate the workers’ pension and replace it with a 401(k) type savings plan as long as the company said that the two plans were of equal value.

Workers could also lose their jobs if the company decided to reduce staff. The contract requires that the company offer workers affected by staff reductions a similar position at another facility within a 50-mile radius. A  50-mile commute would be difficult if not impossible for many of the workers affected.

In addition, the contract requires workers to pass a battery of company tests before they will be retained, and it creates a two-tiered work environment because newly hired workers and workers with fewer than six months on the job can be paid less and receive fewer benefits.

The decision by the four campuses not to participate in Gov. Haslam’s privatization scheme was also a big victory for the 1100 workers whose public service jobs were saved, but it’s not the end of the fight.

“We still have a fight to make sure all our jobs are protected,” said UCW.

In all there are 12 other public university campuses. One has already privatized facility management services, but the others have yet to make a decision. There are also a number of state prisons and state parks that have yet to make a decision.

Nevertheless, UCW members are savoring their victory.

“Today’s news signals relief for the thousands of UT employees across the state whose jobs were imperiled by the plan,” said UCW. “Millions of square feet of real estate and tens of millions of dollars will stay in the public interest.”

Unions denounce TPS decision/recommendations

Two unions criticized decisions by the US government that threaten to overturn the lives of tens of thousands of immigrant workers who had been granted temporary protected status (TPS).

On Friday, November 3, the US State Department recommended that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) end TPS for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua.

On Monday, November 6, DHS ended TPS to 5300 people from Nicaragua and postponed a final decision on the fate of 86,000 Hondurans, leaving them in a kind of legal limbo.

Maria Elena Durazo, general vice president of UNITE HERE, whose membership includes thousands of TPS recipients, many of whom work in the hospitality industry, called DHS’ decision “inhumane.”

Rocio Sáenz, SEIU executive vice president, said that the State Department’s recommendation was a result of “the anti-immigrant animus that has now infected the Trump Administration top to bottom.”

For decades, the US government has granted temporary protected status to people fleeing violence, political repression, or the aftermath of natural disasters in their home countries.

The US has designated 12 countries whose immigrants are eligible for TPS: El Salvador, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Liberia, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan (whose TPS status terminates November 2018), Syria, and Yemen.

Currently there are about 435,000 people living in the US who have been granted TPS.

Granting TPS to immigrants means that they can live and work in the US without fear of deportation, and many TPS immigrants have done so for decades.

The US government regularly determines whether to extend TPS status to each designated country. Until recently, TPS extensions have been routine.

But on November 6, DHS decided to end Nicaragua’s TPS designation and gave Nicaraguan TPS recipients until January 2019 to leave the US.

DHS temporarily extended TPS for people from Honduras to July 2018, but according to Reuters, the agency said their TPS “could then be terminated,” leaving 86,000 people from Honduras with an uncertain future.

UNITE HERE said that DHS’ decision on Nicaragua and Honduras “could have a devastating impact on hundreds of thousands of families and the US economy.”

“TPS recipients, like the thousands that our union represent, are dedicated and longtime employees, many of whom have been at their jobs for decades,” said Durazo.

“Because of the astounding cruelty and foolhardiness of Donald Trump and the Department of Homeland Security, . . . tens of thousands of lives could be ruined with this TPS termination,” continued Durazo, architect of the union’s national immigration campaign. “Ending TPS for Nicaraguan recipients or any others will forcibly tear apart American families, taking TPS recipients who have lived in the US for over twenty years from their American-born children, from their jobs, and from their homes.”

Sáenz said that the State Department’s recommendation to end TPS for people from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua has to be seen as a reflection of the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant ideology

“Given the conditions in the affected countries, the State Department recommendation can only be understood in the context of politicization and anti-immigrant animus that has now infected the Trump administration top to bottom,” said Sáenz. “The TPS recipients whose future is at stake are long-term residents who have been living and working here legally for many years, working in stable jobs, paying taxes, supporting families, and otherwise contributing to their communities. They have more than 270,000 US citizen children and thousands of US citizen grandchildren.”

UNITE HERE said that people who fear that their lives could be turned upside down, should not give up hope.

The union said that it is planning a national political campaign to get Congress to protect the TPS status of people.

“The onus falls now on Congress to take action to save TPS to protect Nicaraguan recipients as well as recipients from Honduras, Haiti, and seven other countries,” said the union.

“UNITE HERE has run one of the most high-profile TPS campaigns in the immigration community over the past year,” stated the union. . . “And we will not end that work now. We will continue advocating for TPS extensions for Nicaragua and comprehensive pathways to citizenship for all immigrants in the upcoming budget fight and beyond.”

Charter/Spectrum strikers hold the line against company’s demand for take aways

For seven months, 1800 cable technicians in New York City have been on strike against Charter Communications, whose chief executive officer Thomas Rutledge is the highest paid CEO in the US.

Charter Communications, which operates the Charter/Spectrum cable company in 47 states, is the third largest cable provider in the US.

Last year it paid Rutledge $98.5 million in compensation.

Charter in 2016 acquired Time Warner cable company for nearly $60 million, and in January 2017 rebranded Time Warner as Charter/Spectrum.

After Charter took over, Rutledge demanded that the company’s unionized workers in New York City surrender their good, middle-class union benefits and accept the much lower benefits of Charter’s non-union employees.

The workers’ union, IBEW Local 3, tried to negotiate with the company, but Charter remained adamant about the take aways and forced a strike to break the union.

Of all the take aways that Rutledge is demanding, four are especially galling to the workers. He wants to

  • eliminate the workers’ health care plan that pays for almost all health care related expenses and replace it with one in which the burden of costs falls more heavily on workers
  • eliminate company contributions to the workers’ pension and medical reimbursement funds
  • eliminate overtime pay on Saturdays and Sundays and
  • make it easier for the company to contract out work to lower paid subcontractors.

In a media advertisement purchased by Local 3, Marvin Billups, a 29-year Time Warner/Spectrum employee, explains what the health care benefit meant to him and his family.

When Billups’ daughter was four months old she developed a respiratory problem that caused her to choke while she was asleep.

Billups’ health care plan paid for a monitoring machine and treatment that kept his daughter alive and helped her grow up to become a healthy young woman.

“Our health benefits are irreplaceable but Spectrum wants to provide me with less services that’s going to cost me  more,” said Billups.  “That makes me feel like the time put in here (working for Spectrum) doesn’t matter.”

“If the CEO makes $98 million, how is a (good union contract) going to affect him?” continued Billups.

The union estimates Charter’s proposed health care plan will cost workers as much as $12,000 a year in higher health care expenses.

In addition to demanding draconian take aways, Charter/Spectrum has been accused of not fulfilling promises made to customers.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in February sued Charter for defrauding and misleading New Yorkers by promising internet services that it could not deliver.

Schneiderman’s suit charges Charter/Spectrum with delivering internet speeds that were as much as 70 percent slower than speeds promised to customers in order to get them to purchase the company’s service.

The attorney general accused Charter/Spectrum of “ripping off” its customers.

More recently the New York Public Service Commission announced that it was fining Charter/Spectrum $13 million for not providing broadband service to unserved and under served communities in New York as it promised it would do.

Charter made the promise in order to win approval for its acquisition of Time Warner.

The company’s conduct also raised the ire of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Mayor de Blasio after receiving information that Charter/Spectrum was using out-of-state contractors to break the strike ordered the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications to conduct an audit of Charter/Spectrum to determine whether the company is violating the terms of its franchise agreement with the city.

“We do not accept a greedy corporation trying to undercut the most basic rights of working people,” said de Blasio at a demonstration in support of the strikers.

Gov. Cuomo complained that Charter’s diminished workforce and its replacement workers’ lack of skill has left its customers vulnerable to poor service.

“If they don’t get their act together and fulfill that agreement, they’re going to be out of the state of New York,” said Cuomo about Charter/Spectrum at the same demonstration.

Spectrum workers have also received support from other union members in New York City.

At an October 30 demonstration, union workers and community supporters filled the streets and sidewalks in midtown Manhattan to demonstrate their support for the striking workers.

Local 3 is asking people to continue supporting the strikers by signing a petition urging the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications to release the findings of its audit of Charter/Spectrum.

Local 3 is also urging people to cancel their Spectrum subscriptions.

“With your help we can show a multi-billion dollar company like Charter/Spectrum that labor and the community stand together!” Local 3 told supporters on its strike website.

Tesla workers fight back against mass firings

The United Autoworkers (UAW) on October 26 filed a second round of unfair labor practices charges against Tesla, the US’ largest manufacturers of electric cars.

Among the six charges that the union filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), one charges the company with firing some of its factory workers for trying to organize a union

Tesla says that the firings, which affected employees throughout the company, not just production workers, was for performance-based reasons.

But Mike Williams, a union supporter at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, said his own performance report showed no problems at work.

“I worked hard for this company for five years, sometimes 72 hours a week and never had any performance-related complaints,” said Williams. “I did, however, wear a union shirt. And I had union stickers on my water bottle. And I believed that a union would make us safer, and would make the company more organized and more efficient. I hate to think that I was targeted because of it. And it’s not just me. Hundreds of other people were let go with no warning. I want Tesla to know that we are more than just numbers. I have kids, I have a family, and this job meant everything to us.”

Before UAW filed its latest charges against Tesla, some of the fired workers and their supporters rallied in front of the Fremont Tesla plant to demand reinstatement of the fired workers.

They also delivered a letter from their community supporters urging Tesla to rehire the fired workers. The letter said that the company’s publicly stated reasons sounded phony.

“We find the mass firings surprising given that Tesla is in ‘production hell’ and has fallen behind its stated goals for producing its Model 3,” states the letter.

When Tesla opened its Fremont plant, its CEO Elon Musk called it a “factory of the future.”

But an article appearing in the Guardian last May make it sound more like a factory from a dark and dreary past.

According to the Guardian, “ambulances have been called more than 100 times since 2014 for workers experiencing fainting spells, dizziness, seizures, abnormal breathing, and chest pains, according to incident reports obtained by the Guardian. Hundreds more were called for injuries and other medical issues.”

“I’ve seen people pass out, hit the floor like a pancake, and smash their face open,” said Jonathan Galescu, a Tesla production technician to the Guardian. “They just send us to work around him while he’s still lying on the floor.”

Conditions like these, lower than industry standard pay, and excessive overtime caused some Tesla workers to start talking about forming a union.

In January, the union organizing drive went public. Union supporters wore union buttons, t-shirts, and stickers and began talking to the press about conditions inside the plant.

Workers said that when their organizing campaign went public, Tesla began to harass and coerce union supporters.

In April, UAW filed unfair labor practices charges against Tesla. Among other things, the UAW charged Tesla with requiring workers to sign a restrictive confidentiality agreement that prevents them from discussing working conditions with others.

In August, the National Labor Relations Board agreed that Tesla had broken the law and filed a complaint against the company.

A hearing on that complaint is scheduled for November 14.

Then on October 13, Tesla announced a mass firing of employees that included engineers, managers, and factory workers.

Reports on the firings estimated that between 400 and 700 employees were terminated.

But pro-union supporters said that they thought that as many as 1000 were fired.

Just about two weeks after the firings, some of the fired pro-union workers and their supporters demonstrated in front of the Tesla factory.

The protesters then marched into a Tesla’s Fremont showroom and held a rally.

Richard Valle, Alameda County Commissioner, was one of a number of local elected officials who joined Tesla workers at the rally.

Valle said that Elon Musk may be worth billions but his wealth and that of other billionaires depends on work done by  workers.

Valle said that he and other elected officials would stand with the fired workers until they got their jobs back and the company recognized their union.

After the UAW filed its second round of unfair labor practices charges against Tesla in October, Richard Ortriz, a union activist fired for talking to others about working conditions at the Tesla factory, explained why the fight for a union at Tesla is so important.

“I was fired for trying to better the lives of my co-workers,” said Ortiz. “I always felt this was a worthy fight. I knew it wouldn’t make me popular with management, and I knew there was risk, but people are getting hurt. People are being paid less than they’re worth. And people are being treated unfairly.” 

About his firing, Ortiz said, “I’ve worked in auto manufacturing my whole life. I do not believe–not for a second–that I was fired for cause.”