Tesla Factory Safety: Fact-Finding Journalism Or Propaganda?


MAY 7 2018 BY EVANNEX 25


Journalistic integrity is a hot topic these days, and rightly so. A free press is absolutely necessary for democracy, technological and social progress, and other nice things. However, with press freedom come responsibilities: among other things, not to cherry-pick facts to support a preconceived conclusion, and not to quote sources without revealing when they have a personal stake in an issue.

*This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Charles Morris. The opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily our own at InsideEVs.

Related: Tesla Employee Complains, Musk Disputes Claims, UAW Chimes In

Read Also: U.S. Labor Board Lodges Workers Rights Complaint Against Tesla

Source: Tesla

The subjects of press coverage also have responsibilities. To indulge in journalistic misconduct is very wrong, but it’s also wrong to accuse a media outlet of bias just because its reporting casts your company or cause in a negative light. On the other hand, not everyone who questions the integrity of a particular journalist is an anti-first-amendment fascist.

Further Reading: Tesla Model 3 “Production Hell” Might Be Unsafe?

All of these issues have been highlighted in an ongoing controversy concerning workplace injuries at Tesla. Online news outlet Reveal recently published an article alleging that Tesla not only had an above-average number of worker injuries at its facilities, but that it had found sneaky ways to under-report the actual number of incidents. California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health opened an investigation of Tesla, which Reveal was quick to attribute to its intrepid reporting.

Unsurprisingly, Tesla immediately issued an indignant rebuttal of Reveal’s story: “Unfortunately, the writers at Reveal paint a completely false picture of Tesla and what it is actually like to work here. In our view, what they portray as investigative journalism is in fact an ideologically motivated attack by an extremist organization working directly with union supporters to create a calculated disinformation campaign against Tesla.”

Automotive news site Jalopnik chimed in on Reveal’s side, waxing indignant that anyone should question the integrity of a publication that was recently named as a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize. Jalopnik characterizes Tesla’s reaction to criticism thus: “If you dare to report anything that makes Tesla look bad, you’re either on the take by the union effort, looking to make money by shorting TSLA somehow, or working against the electrification of cars on behalf of Big Oil.”

Unfortunately, Jalopnik seriously undermines its case by engaging in some of the same “unhinged” rhetoric that it condemns. The article leads with a Photoshopped picture that seems to show Elon Musk’s head pasted onto Donald Trump’s body, and it compares Tesla’s attitude toward the media to Trump’s three times. One of the things that separates responsible journalism from sensationalism is a sense of proportion – there’s a tacit understanding that casual comparisons to famous demagogues are uncool.

If this whole back-and-forth sounds familiar, it should. Last May, The Guardian reported that workers at Tesla were complaining of poor working conditions, including safety issues (while the article was critical of Tesla, it was responsible and balanced – it included an interview with Elon Musk himself, and it did not compare him to a plantation overseer). Worker advocacy group Worksafe also published a report that was critical of Tesla’s safety record.

Many other media outlets weighed in on both sides of the issue. A piece in Inc. praised Elon Musk’s reaction to the controversy as an example of “emotional intelligence.” Forbes took a direct shot at Inc. and criticized Elon’s efforts as “damage control.”

Source: Tesla

The United Auto Workers (UAW) has played a major role in publicizing Tesla’s workplace injury issues (as well as other issues, including allegations of racism), as part of an effort to unionize the company’s employees. It has every right to do so – advocating for workplace safety is an important part of what unions do. However, readers need to understand the nature of the union’s involvement in the issue, and that’s where the issue of journalistic integrity comes in.

Professor Jeff Joseph, writing in the Detroit News, opines that the latest injury allegations are part of a UAW campaign to encourage negative news coverage of Tesla. It’s no secret that the union and the automaker have been sparring in the press for several years. According to Fox Business News, the UAW spent at least $422,000 on its campaign to unionize Tesla in 2017. Joseph says that generating unflattering news stories is a standard part of the union’s playbook.

Reveal denied that its article was in any way linked to the UAW’s corporate campaign, but according to Joseph, “the union’s fingerprints were all over the story. The story’s featured employee had previously been identified by the union as one its surrogates in the plant; the chemical bonding agent that the reporters focused on had previously been singled out by the union; and the neutral ‘expert’ who was called upon to comment on these findings had already been tapped by the UAW to author an anti-Tesla report.”

Joseph also points out that, back when the Fremont plant was operated by a joint venture of GM and Toyota, with a UAW workforce, the rate of injuries was higher than the industry average (according to Inside Sources), which would seem to undermine the UAW’s self-appointed position as the savior of Tesla’s workers.

(Unfortunately, Mr. Joseph’s article has its own credibility problem: a bug [or a feature?] in the Detroit News website prevents readers from directly linking to the sources that Joseph cites, making it difficult to ascertain whether the sources really support Joseph’s assertions.)

In response to the numerous criticisms of its article, Reveal seems to have done the right thing – the piece appears to have been updated to include Tesla’s rebuttal of several of the allegations, and to clarify that “some of the workers who spoke to Reveal have supported the unionization effort, while many others – including safety professionals – had no involvement.”

Source: Tesla

So, who’s right and who’s wrong in this automotive ado? Was Reveal’s revelation just another anti-Tesla hit job, or an exposé of the dark side of the Force? Alas, dear reader, this humble writer cannot answer those questions for you (but here’s a hint: “none of the above” is a possible answer). As all informed media consumers must do (but so many do not), you must gather the facts from a variety of sources and make your own decision.


Written by: Charles Morris

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers, free of charge. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX. Check out the site here.

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25 Comments on "Tesla Factory Safety: Fact-Finding Journalism Or Propaganda?"

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Another Euro point of view

It could be propaganda but weirdly enough I am not sure I trust the author of this article to bring me a fair information about this. Go figure.

EVANNEX: Fact-Finding Journalism Or Tesla Propaganda?

A link to Reveal’s initial denial that the union had any involvement would be very helpful. Failure to identify UAW-affiliated sources in the article might be an oversight, but outright denial, if true, would clearly show bias.

Most reporting surrounding Tesla tends to “cherry-pick facts to support a preconceived conclusion”. Fervent fanboys and an entire ecosystem of blogs surrounding them. Likewise a fervent anti Tesla, EV, ecology attitude as defies rational thinking.
I think its best to let information and facts inform a rational conclusion no matter where it ends up. In particular that means that Tesla is often right, but also makes mistakes and sometimes big ones.

From article: “…back when the Fremont plant was operated by a joint venture of GM and Toyota, with a UAW workforce, the rate of injuries was higher than the industry average (according to Inside Sources), which would seem to undermine the UAW’s self-appointed position as the savior of Tesla’s workers”

History is often a good predictor of the future…

“Deserved or not, UAW had a notorious history at this [formally NUMMI now Tesla] plant. A former UAW regional director claimed the GM plant had the worst workforce of any American automobile plant, with the “most militant UAW in the United States.” …According to news accounts and management studies, drinking and drug use on the job at the GM plant were common and absenteeism was rampant. It’s alleged that disgruntled workers even sabotaged cars during the manufacturing process… History and common sense suggests that UAW representation at the Tesla plant would end poorly for the workers.” source:

The Mercury News / Would Tesla close unionized plant like GM and NUMMI did?https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/05/01/opinion-would-tesla-close-unionized-plant-like-gm-and-nummi-did/

Conflict of interest?

Considering that UAW owns a large chunk fo GM and Tesla happens to be a GM competitor… why would it be unreasonable to think the UAW does not have Tesla and Tesla employees best interest in mind?

“The 2009 agreement says the UAW trust must own at least 50 percent of the [GM] shares it initially acquired following the automaker’s federally-induced bankruptcy. But it’s unclear if the initial number of shares acquired includes a three-way stock split ahead of GM’s November 2010 initial public offering that increased the UAW trust’s shares from 87.5 million to 262.5 million… As a large shareholder, the UAW trust still is empowered to nominate someone for the [GM] board…” source:

Detroit News / UAW trust sells $1.6B worth of GM stock https://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/autos/general-motors/2018/03/05/uaw-veba-stock-sale/111124700/

Let that sink in… basically the owner of GM is saying they want to be in Tesla’s factory to help Tesla be a better company by improving the working condition for Tesla’s employees… and the UAW further has demanded that those UAW unionized Tesla employees should have much more control of Tesla’s business plans.

That’s amazing digging!! This information should be included in every story relating to UAW and Tesla.

Tesla propaganda site talks about propaganda.LOL. C’mon stop that propaganda sh.. from that crap site EVANNEX

Agreed. Why do we keeping seeing these “articles?”

Somebody is getting paid…

That might be better coming from someone who isn’t a serial Tesla basher like you, “James”. If you want to see a purveyor of propaganda and FUD about Tesla, try looking in a mirror.

So you somehow don’t believe there is anti-Tesla propaganda, just because of who the source is pointing out the propaganda? Seems like you lack the ability to independently verify facts regardless of the source. That is quite a personal failure you are admitting to.

In my view their is a clear anti Tesla bias in the legacy media in regard to Tesla. It makes sense that a company that does not advertise would be a company the media is directed to attack.
The tone of financial talking heads is decidedly against Tesla, with snide remarks, and asides, by commenters that know next to nothing, but always harp on the standard criticisms.

The attacks usually fall into the short it play book.
1. Money: They are out of money.
2. Safety: Plants are unsafe, as are the cars, as autopilot is dangerous.
3. Musk: A charlatan and an ineffectual, bumbling, glory-hound leader.
4. The Future: Superior evs are coming soon.

None of which are actually true, but any occurrence of problems in these areas will be focused on as a primary attribute that is endemic and intractable , rather than temporary and surmountable.

Eh, there’s more.

1. Their cars will burn up in accidents. Remember all those media coverage? Yet not a single mention of burning ICE vehicles.
2. Very unreliable. Will need entire drivetrain replacement.
3. Panel gaps omg such poor quality. Conveniently the BMW i3 escapes any such mention.
4. Tesla EVs have bigger carbon footprint.
5. Even SpaceX gets fake news coverage by CNN. They recovered one half of a fairing and the report says launch goes well but fairing crashes into the sea. No mention that everyone else dumps their fairing.

Selective journalism is rampant. You just have to open your eyes.

You’re saying this about a company that burned a billion last quarter while its CEO tweets about starting a “candy company” just to spite Warren Buffett?

Ah, yeah, you and EVANNEX may well be part of the problem. I think the rest of the world is putting it’s money on Buffett and Munger

Actually, I think #1 is “Tesla is just a Ponzi scheme, using fraudulent accounting and inflated production numbers to sell stocks. It will collapse any week now.” Claiming Tesla is out of money is part of that FUD, of course.

GM’s spending on advertising through legacy media in 2016: 3.77 BILLION dollars.

How much does Tesla give to legacy media to advertise on their platforms? Zero dollars.

Death never happen with Tesla workers. Not many people get deathened there.
So the story is all fake news.

Ron Swanson's Mustache

Watching Jalopnik try to claim the mantle of journalistic integrity is hilarious.

After all, they are from the house of Gawker, and will forever be tainted by the truly disgusting legacy of Nick Denton.

The first stories we saw on this issue (or perhaps non-issue) were very obviously just pro-union agitprop (propaganda) from the UAW, and some follow-up stories were about articles from newspapers with a pretty strong pro-union bias. All that seemed to me to be contemptible attempts to slander (well, libel) Tesla’s good name.

But when I saw a similar report on the CBS News website, I sat up and took notice. Maybe there is some truth to the allegations after all? On the other hand, it could be that the CBS News report is based on the same reports from the same union activists making a pretense of being Tesla workers.

I dunno. Perhaps OSHA should investigate, altho I rather expect that any OSHA investigation of any auto assembly plant would find some issues, even if they’re not important ones. If there are real problems with worker safety at the Fremont assembly plant, then those problems need to be addressed. But if this is just the same sort of thing you see anywhere in a large organization, disgruntled fired employees with an axe to grind against the company, then it’s pretty meaningless.

All you need to know is the NUMMI produced twice as many cars with half as many people as Tesla seems capable of producing.

NUMMI was a final assembly plant for sub-assemblies built elsewhere. For example, they would get complete motor, transmission, axle, strut, and brake assemblies that were constructed in Ontario on pallets that looked somewhat like this, and then married them to the bodies:

comment image

The whole assembly would simply bolt in, they would put wheels on it, and off they went. To compare Tesla productivity with NUMMI productivity, you would have to add back in Gigafactory and Ontario and other factories to make a valid comparison for both. They simply don’t do the same things at Tesla that NUMMI did. Nor did NUMMI ever put out any 100K+ luxury cars, which all get more labor time no matter who makes them compared with cheap cars.

It is apples to oranges.

Are you talking about the same CBS News who for their stories exclusively used sources like UAW linked Sanchez and Galescue, along with UAW linked “worksafe” (which has a number of former union leaders as primaries)?


Journalism is not in a hot spot, only Trump, Fox News, the Russians and post like this one, that promotes anti democratic thoughts. The negativity about Tesla is about EVs and the hidden interest in stop the progression of new technologies away from Oil.

Article by a journalist with 30+ years of experience in the occupational safety field offers a balanced view that examines the EHS staffing and safety goals at the Fremont factory: https://www.ishn.com/articles/109463-the-journey-to-be-the-worlds-safest-factory-10-takeaways