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Union accuses Tesla of spying on workers at Buffalo plant

A union has accused Tesla of spying on workers and improper firing at the company's Buffalo solar products plant in an unfair labor practice charge.

The United Steelworkers union, one of two unions attempting to organize workers at the South Buffalo plant, filed the charge this week with the National Labor Relations Board.

Specifics of the allegations against Tesla, including the number of workers involved, were not immediately available. A note on the NLRB's website said documents regarding the case may require redactions before they could be publicly viewed.

“Tesla greatly values our employees at our Buffalo facility, and respects their right to organize," Tesla said. "The (unfair labor practice) allegation is without merit and we will be responding as part of the NLRB process.”

Last December, the Steelworkers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers launched a drive to organize production and maintenance workers at the RiverBend factory. The Steelworkers said workers there had reached out to that union about organizing, and the Steelworkers and IBEW agreed to jointly work on the effort.

A spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh-based Steelworkers union did not return a call to comment Thursday about the allegations.

The performance of and outlook for the Tesla factory is closely watched in the region, operating in a factory built with $750 million in taxpayer funds. Tesla and Panasonic both have operations at the plant.

Tesla has promised to create 1,460 jobs at the Buffalo factory by April 2020 or else it could be hit with a $41.2 million penalty. The plant had 730 workers in mid-April, according to a report filed with state officials last month. That topped Tesla's promise to have 500 jobs by April at the Buffalo plant.

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