Trouble In Paradise? Tesla Factory Workers Are Restless

A person who claims to be a worker at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California has taken to social media to call out Tesla and Elon Musk over working conditions at the factory. His name is José Moran and he says he has been working for Tesla for four years.  He claims wages at the factory are lower than they are at other manufacturing facilities in the area, that mandatory overtime is excessive, and that work place injuries are too high. “A few months ago, six out of eight people in my work team were out on medical leave at the same time due to various work-related injuries,” he said on Medium.

Tesla factory Fremont

Moran goes on to slam the company for intimidating workers who may have complaints. “Many of us have been talking about unionizing, and have reached out to the United Auto Workers for support… But at the same time, management actions are feeding workers’ fears about speaking out. Recently, every worker was required to sign a confidentiality policy that threatens consequences if we exercise our right to speak out about wages and working conditions.”

He further says he and his fellow workers are proud to be part of the Tesla revolution, they just want to be treated fairly.“We are working hard to build the world’s #1 car — not just electric, but overall.” He says the issue goes beyond just compensation. “Injuries, poor morale, unfair promotions, high turnover, and other issues aren’t just bad for workers  —  they also impact the quality and speed of production. They can’t be resolved without workers having a voice and being included in the process.”

“Tesla isn’t a startup anymore. It’s here to stay. Workers are ready to help make the company more successful and a better place to work. Just as CEO Elon Musk is a respected champion for green energy and innovation, I hope he can also become a champion for his employees. As more of my coworkers speak out, I hope that we can start a productive conversation about building a fair future for all who work at Tesla.”

Not surprisingly, Elon Musk has something to say back to Moran and his mates. He told Gizmodo, “There is sometimes mandatory overtime if we are trying to make up for a production stoppage, but it is dropping almost every week.” Musk says Tesla starting pay is higher that it is for those in the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) and that “total compensation is higher for a given level of seniority when factoring in stock grants.”

He further states Tesla is “union neutral” and the confidentiality agreements Moran refers to are designed to protect trade secrets, not to discourage any union organizing campaign. Then Musk teed off on Moran and the United Workers in general. “Our understanding is that this guy was paid by the UAW to join Tesla and agitate for a union. He doesn’t really work for us, he works for the UAW.” He wasn’t done, though. “Frankly, I find this attack to be morally outrageous. Tesla is the last car company left in California because costs are so high. The UAW killed NUMMI and abandoned the workers at our Fremont plant in 2010. They have no leg to stand on.”

NUMMI is the joint venture between General Motors and Toyota that built the original factory in Fremont. At its peak, that factory was turning out 500,000 cars a year before both companies decided it was no longer profitable to manufacture automobiles there and shut down operations, putting thousands out of work.

Moran claims average wages at the Tesla factory are between $17 and $21 per hour, far less than the $25.58 he says is the norm in the auto industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average hourly pay for motor vehicle manufacturing in December 2016 was $29.53. As to what stock options workers get or what they are worth, there is no information. Certainly the price of Tesla stock has been going nowhere but up lately.

Gizmodo says it was unable to find anyone by the name of Jose Moran currently working for Tesla on any social media and that his Medium post does not give any contact information. Is José Moran an alias? Is he really a stalking horse for the UAW? Is Tesla really an oppressor of workers? It’s hard to know for sure.

Expect Elon to order a full review of pay and employment practices at the factory. Especially now when expansion plans are underway to get ready for Model 3 production and many more workers will be hired, Tesla will want to make sure it treats is people fairly. The number one rule when it comes to preventing union organizing activities is to treat the workforce with respect and keep their compensation at or near the top of the industry standard.  Elon may not be a social justice activist and he does have a business to run, but he is certainly smart enough to know how to keep his workers from becoming restive.

Source and photo credit: Teslarati


Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.