Tesla is doing everything different to a regular car company, and making a lot of friends along the way. Not negotiating on price and selling direct to consumers has given Tesla a reputation for being fair and friendly, and made traditional car companies look increasingly out of date.
But there’s one other big difference: Tesla’s workers aren’t unionized, and from time to time, rumors surface about bad working conditions in the company’s factories. A new report in the Guardian cites 15 former and current workers to paint a picture of a factory where everyone is stressed out, overworked, and potentially in real danger.
According to the report, Tesla has a “culture of long hours under intense pressure, sometimes through pain and injury, in order to fulfill the CEO’s ambitious production goals.” Fatigue seems to be the number-one problem, as workers described colleagues working for so long that they simply passed out. “I’ve seen people pass out, hit the floor like a pancake and smash their face open,” a production technician said.
It seems to be more than just anecdotal. Since 2014, over 100 ambulances have been called to Tesla’s factory for a range of issues, including dizziness and exhaustion. Obviously, some of those ambulance calls would be for unrelated injuries or incidents that would happen at any workplace, but exhaustion and overwork just keep on popping up.
Speaking of which: back in February, Tesla worker Jose Moran wrote a blog post arguing why Tesla employees should unionize. In the post, Moran said:
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.
The Guardian did speak to Elon Musk about the allegations. He acknowledged the long hours, but argues that Tesla is losing money so “This is not some situation where, for example, we are just greedy capitalists who decided to skimp on safety in order to have more profits and dividends and that kind of thing. It’s just a question of how much money we lose. And how do we survive? How do we not die and have everyone lose their jobs.”