Tesla worker: long hours, low pay and unsafe conditions
FREMONT >> Disgruntled Tesla employees have reached out to the United Auto Workers, claiming they work long hours for low pay under unsafe conditions while the electric vehicle company sets aggressive production deadlines.
California lawmakers have also begun to question Tesla for making its employees sign broad confidentiality agreements they say chill worker communications.
The complaints bring increased scrutiny and potential union organizing to Tesla as it attempts a massive expansion to reach new customers with mass-produced, lower-cost vehicles. Tesla is headquartered in Palo Alto and has more than 5,000 non-union workers at its factory in Fremont.
Tesla said in a statement the complaints are coming from professional union-organizers. In the statement, the company pointed out that it is the largest manufacturing employer in California.
“The safety and job satisfaction of our employees here at Tesla has always been extremely important to us,” a Tesla spokesman said. “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.”
Jose Moran, a production worker at the Fremont plant, wrote in an online blog post that workers typically earn between $17 and $20 per hour, below the national average for a U.S. autoworker of $25.58 per hour.
Moran has been with the company for four years, and says he’s proud of Tesla and the work he has done to produce innovative, electric vehicles. But even with a steady paycheck, he said in the post, it’s hard to make ends meet in the Bay Area. He commutes about three hours a day to work, and typically puts in 60-70 hours per week.
“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,” Moran wrote.
A few months ago, six of the eight members of Moran’s team were on medical leave from work-related injuries, he wrote.
“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,” Moran wrote.
Tesla employees produce the all-electric Model S and Model X vehicles at the factory. The company is making a $1 billion expansion to start production of the Model 3, a less-expensive sedan designed for a broader market.
In a letter, five California assembly members also questioned Tesla CEO Elon Musk about the confidentiality agreement all employees are required to sign.
“The breadth of the agreement appears to violate employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by both promulgating overly-broad work rules directed at employees’ union or concerted activities,” the assembly members wrote in a Jan. 10 letter.
Tesla lawyer Todd Maron replied in a letter that the company respected their workers’ rights to speak freely, but wanted to curb unauthorized disclosures about product launches and vehicle features.