Elon Musk Responds to Claims of Low Pay, Injuries and Anti-Union Policies at Tesla Plant

By Bryan Menegus on at

Tesla’s effort to bring electric cars to the world has often felt like science fiction in real life. CEO Elon Musk’s continued defense of and association with the decided anti-science Trump administration has cracked that illusion somewhat, but an alleged employee’s impassioned post on the car company’s working conditions seems intent on shattering it completely.

Jose Moran claims to be one of Musk’s employees working at the Fremont plant, located across the San Fransisco Bay from swanky Palo Alto. It’s where all of Tesla’s cars are made and where Moran says he has worked for the past four years.

The working conditions described by Moran include “excessive mandatory overtime” which is both draining but necessary to offset the astronomical cost of living in the Bay Area. Tesla workers, according to Moran, make between $17 (£13.64) and $21 (£16.85) hourly, a far cry from the $25.58 (£20.55) he cites as average in the auto industry. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the average hourly pay for motor vehicle manufacturing in December 2016 as $29.53 (£23.70).

Frequent, preventable injuries are also a hallmark of the Fremont plant, Moran claims. “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,” though he alleges that many employees don’t speak up about more minor physical ailments to avoid repercussions, real or imagined.

Moran also claims that there were attempts to silence employees and keep them from organising:

Many of us have been talking about unionising, and have reached out to the United Auto Workers for support... 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.

Musk refuted all of these claims in a DM to Gizmodo.

“There is sometimes mandatory overtime if we are trying to make up for a production stoppage, but it is dropping almost every week,” he wrote.

Regarding potentially low wages, Musk claims that Tesla offers a higher starting pay than those unionised in the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) and that “total compensation is higher for a given level of seniority when factoring in stock grants.” How much stock is dished out, to whom, and after how many years of employment was not specified. He further described his car company as “union neutral,” and characterised the confidentiality policy as a means to prevent trade secrets from leaking.

Musk even went on the offensive against Moran, attempting to discredit his assertions about Tesla. “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,” Musk wrote. He added in a separate response, “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.”

Gizmodo was unable to find anyone by the name of Jose Moran currently working for Tesla on any social media, and his Medium post does not give any contact information.