Tesla “Employee” Complains, Musk Disputes Claims, UAW Chimes In
Just the other day, a current Tesla Fremont factory “employee” wrote a piece on Medium pointing out a myriad of issues with the company’s work conditions. Highlights included concerns such as mandatory unpaid overtime, low wages, equipment situations leading to work-related injuries, unfair confidentiality policies, employees fear speaking to superiors, and finally, the lack of a labor union.
Wow! He covered a whole lot of material … and quite eloquently. Jose Moran’s whole piece is attached below, if you want to read it for yourself, without clicking around. Rather than rehashing the letter’s every detail, you can see it first-hand.
We waited to get this info out, as throughout the past day or so, it seems the story has changed numerous times.
First of all, there wasn’t – and still isn’t – proof that Moran even works for Tesla. There was speculation that Moran was planted by the UAW, Elon Musk has made a statement, the UAW has made a statement, posts have been updated and “re-updated”, and updates have been made to the updates. Kind of a mess really. In sifting through it all, this is what we know now so far:
Following Moran’s post, Gizmodo wrote a piece on it, and Elon Musk responded to the publication, via direct message on Twitter. He denied all claims, and only admitted:
“There is sometimes mandatory overtime if we are trying to make up for a production stoppage, but it is dropping almost every week.”
Musk also told Gizmodo:
“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. 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.”
Tesla also explained that the confidentiality agreement is specifically in place to keep product launches and unreleased features safe. Todd Maron, a Tesla lawyer explained:
“The company respected their workers’ rights to speak freely, but wanted to curb unauthorized disclosures about product launches and vehicle features.”
Even more interesting is that the publication couldn’t find any specific information proving that a person named Jose Moran works for Tesla, and the Medium post fails to provide any specific information about Moran. Gizmodo reportedly checked social media and other sources, as well as LinkedIn. Shortly after the Gizmodo post, Moran seemed to suddenly have a LinkedIn page showing that he works for Tesla.
The UAW commented back about Musk’s claims:
“Mr. Moran is not and has not been paid by the UAW. We would hope that Tesla would apologize to their employee.”
“We can confirm that Mr. Moran and others at Tesla, have approached the UAW and we welcome them with open arms.”
The Fremont factory is the only U.S. auto facility, owned by an American automaker, that is not unionized. Elon Musk has referred to Tesla as “union neutral.” This basically means that the workforce can organize to unionize if it chooses. A Tesla spokesperson shared:
“This is not the first time we have been the target of a professional union organizing effort such as this.”
“The safety and job satisfaction of our employees here at Tesla has always been extremely important to us. We have a long history of engaging directly with our employees on the issues that matter to them, and we will continue to do so because it’s the right thing to do.”
Moran has now posted a video on Facebook (below) at the page entitled, “A Fair Future At Tesla”:
Jose Moran’s post on Medium:
Time for Tesla to Listen
“I’m proud to be part of a team that is bringing green cars to the masses. As a production worker at Tesla’s plant in Fremont for the past four years, I believe Tesla is one of the most innovative companies in the world. We are working hard to build the world’s #1 car — not just electric, but overall. Unfortunately, however, I often feel like I am working for a company of the future under working conditions of the past.
Most of my 5,000-plus coworkers work well over 40 hours a week, including excessive mandatory overtime. The hard, manual labor we put in to make Tesla successful is done at great risk to our bodies.
Preventable injuries happen often. In addition to long working hours, machinery is often not ergonomically compatible with our bodies. There is too much twisting and turning and extra physical movement to do jobs that could be simplified if workers’ input were welcomed. Add a shortage of manpower and a constant push to work faster to meet production goals, and injuries are bound to happen.
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. I hear that ergonomics concerns in other departments are even more severe. Worst of all, I hear coworkers quietly say that they are hurting but they are too afraid to report it for fear of being labeled as a complainer or bad worker by management.
Ironically, many of my coworkers who have been saying they are fed up with the long hours at the plant also rely on the overtime to survive financially. Although the cost of living in the Bay Area is among the highest in the nation, pay at Tesla is near the lowest in the automotive industry.
Most Tesla production workers earn between $17 and $21 hourly. The average auto worker in the nation earns $25.58 an hour, and lives in a much less expensive region. The living wage in Alameda county, where we work, is more than $28 an hour for an adult and one child (I have two). Many of my coworkers are commuting one or two hours before and after those long shifts because they can’t afford to live closer to the plant.
While working 60–70 hours per week for 4 years for a company will make you tired, it will also make you loyal. I’ve invested a great deal of time and sacrificed important moments with my family to help Tesla succeed. I believe in the vision of our company. I want to make it better.
I think our management team would agree that our plant doesn’t function as well as it could, but until now they’ve underestimated the value of listening to employees. In a company of our size, an “open-door policy” simply isn’t a solution. We need better organization in the plant, and I, along with many of my coworkers, believe we can achieve that by coming together and forming a union.
Many of us have been talking about unionizing, and have reached out to the United Auto Workers for support. The company has begun to respond. In November, they offered a raise to employees’ base pay — the first we’ve seen in a very long time.
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. Thankfully, five members of the California State Assembly have written a letter to Tesla questioning the policy and calling for a retraction.
I’m glad that someone is standing up for Tesla workers, and we need to stand up for ourselves too. 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.
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.”