Tesla Faces Claims of Poor Factory Working Conditions

By Deniz Yalcin
Technology & Innovation Writer

Tesla is the only automotive company that has a factory in California. They employ over 5000 workers at their factory and wages range from $17 to $24 an hour. These average wages are, according to employees of the auto plant, are below the necessary living wage for the high cost of the Bay Area. Recently, Jose Moran has claimed that there are, “… challenging work conditions and organizational issues within a factory under the microscope like never before.”

The Tesla auto plant is preparing to make the newly announced, Model 3. The Model 3 is a version of Tesla’s popular all electric vehicles: the Model S and the Model X. It will be at an affordable price (starting just around $35,000). Due to the work environment and alleged six-day workweeks and 12-hour workdays, Jose Moran wrote an article on Medium, a publishing service. In his article, Moran called for forming a union at Tesla’s “lone auto assembly plant.”

After writing the article, Moran spent part of his work day passing out paper copies of his article to his co-workers. By the evening Chief Executive Officer of Tesla, Elon Musk, criticized Moran and the Union Auto Workers (UAW) in a Twitter conversation to tech blog, Gizmodo. Musk was appalled by this action and rejected all allegations of a “challenging” working environment and claimed that their high costs of having a plant in California proves Musk’s commitment to his workers.

Jose Moran states that he is not an employee of the UAW, but does receive support from them. Moran believes that it is “too bad” that Musk trashed him and the desire to form a workers union within the plant. He claims that higher costs and work stoppages would occur if a union organizes at their Fremont Plant. Musk responded to Moran’s claim by saying, “He doesn’t really work for us, he works for the UAW…Frankly, I find this attack to be morally outrageous. Tesla is the last car company left in California, because the costs are so high.”

The UAW replied to Musk’s response by stating that Moran does not work for the UAW and hope that Musk will apologize to Moran. The UAW also confirmed that Moran and other Tesla factory workers have approached the union. The UAW dubs Musk’s claim of Moran working for the UAW as “fake news” and welcomes the factory workers of Tesla with open arms.

Jose Moran has been working with Tesla for over four and a half years. His comments about working conditions from his post on Medium states, “The issues go much deeper than just fair pay. 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.”
This story is still developing and will be interesting to follow as worker’s rights within the Tesla factory environment continue to clash with management. Will Tesla do something about this claim? Will the UAW find a way to step in? How will this affect the production of the Model 3, as it is already aimed for release within a couple of years? These questions may or may not be answered and only time will tell. As for Elon Musk’s opinion on this, it is clear he does not see anything wrong with the working conditions within his factory.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 print edition.

Contact Deniz Yalcin at
deniz.yalcin@student.shu.edu

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