On July 3, 2019, we told you about the completion of the Tesla Lathrop distribution center. At the time, there were signs it was also dedicated to production in some way. A person that identifies as an employee there confirmed it manufactures parts, but not in a light mood. This person decided to tell us about that to accuse Tesla of exposing its employees to COVID-19 infection in multiple ways.
The anonymous Tesla worker mentioned Tesla still stimulates ridesharing among employees, does not offer N95 masks for them to work, and that shifts make it impossible to keep social distancing. To make matters worse, Tesla was sending sick employees back home without disclosing to their fellow workers who they were or where they worked.
This person claims to have not only contacted the press but also Lathrop authorities and Valerie Workman, Tesla's head of North America HR. The anonymous worker tried to warn them about these "unsafe conditions." The email this person sent to authorities reads:
"I don't understand why Tesla Lathrop is allowed to stay open when Tesla Fremont was deemed non-essential and shut down. From everything I've read about the San Joaquin county shelter in mandate, manufacturing cars is not listed as essential and yet we have not been shut down even though we only make car parts for new cars. Lathrop Police said Tesla is following distancing conditions but they are not, we can't stay six feet away our entire shift. Lathrop Police was also told by Tesla that break rooms are shut down but that isn't true either. What Elen Musk is doing to employees is abhorrent and according to shelter in procedures it is illegal to stay open, yet we're being forced to continue working.
Tesla Lathrop has many employees who live all over San Joaquin County. Staying open is negligent. And we are not being properly informed of exposure and car parts for new cars is (sic) not essential."
San Joaquin County currently has 151 cases of COVID-19 infection, 8 deaths, and it declared a "local health emergency" due to the virus on March 12. Lathrop does not have any so far.
This alleged Tesla worker also sent us the reply received from Lathrop's city attorney, Salvador Navarrete. In his response to this employee, the city attorney said this:
"Based on the details provided in their letters to the City, we understand that Tesla's operations at its plants in Lathrop, California are as an 'Essential Business' in support of 'Critical Infrastructure' as those terms are defined in Governor Newsom's Order N33-2020 issued on March 19th, 2020 and the order of the San Joaquin County Public Health Officer and Director of Emergency Services dates March 21, 2020."
We got in touch with Navarrete to confirm if he really sent this message and to check if the content is correct. We also consulted the order of the San Joaquin County Public Health Officer and Director of Emergency Services. An updated version of it allows travel "to perform work as an Essential Critical Infrastructure Worker." Strictly in legal terms, Tesla would be covered.
Gallery: Tesla Lathrop Employee Accuses Company Of Exposing Them To COVID-19 Risk
We have already told you about CISA's definition of "critical manufacturing sectors." Although it seems outdated to deal with threats like the COVID-19, it says car manufacturing is critical. But is a distribution center allowed to produce car parts or just to distribute them? If it is allowed to manufacture, under which conditions should that happen?
This person seems to really be an employee fighting to get better working conditions without jeopardizing his job, but even that needs to be verified. April Fools' Day, right? Regardless of that, we had to have this published to check the story.
If the allegations are true, wouldn't it be necessary to have all employees wear masks and gloves to avoid infection? Isn't ridesharing exposing these employees to even more risk? Shouldn't they be warned about who was infected with the novel coronavirus, especially if they were working side by side with these infected workers?
We have sent Tesla a request for clarification on this as we have many times before, but the company has only answered that once. We will update the article if and when it replies, but we do not want to rely solely on Tesla to tell this story. If you work at the Lathrop facility, please get in touch and tell us what is happening there. We will preserve your identities. Our goal is just to get these facts straight.
If Tesla is really doing all it can to preserve its employees' health, these allegations will prove unjustified and we will write an article showing all Tesla is doing to protect its workers. If this person is telling us the truth and is joined by others, Tesla will have to do more than distributing masks and ventilators to hospitals in need: It would better not to send them more patients as well.