U.S. Markets closed

Elon Musk: Complaints of horrid working conditions at Tesla factory are 'disingenuous or outright false'

Julie Bort
Elon Musk

As promised, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has released the results of an investigation into factory working conditions, after a worker publicly complained, alleging that employees were underpaid, forced to work overtime, and regularly suffered injuries at the company's Fremont facility. 

Musk sent a scathing email to the troops saying that the employee's account of the situation was "untrue" on all fronts, published in full by Electrek's Fred Lambert. Business Insider confirmed the authenticity of the email.

The worker, Jose Moran, published his plea on February 9 and advocated that Tesla join the United Auto Workers union. 

In the email response, Musk positioned Tesla as the David to the major car company's Goliath and said that the UAW was in cahoots with those big auto makers and was using "underhanded" and "disingenuous or outright false" tactics (emphasis ours):

"That is why I was so distraught when I read the recent blog post promoting the UAW, which does not share our mission and whose true allegiance is to the giant car companies, where the money they take from employees in dues is vastly more than they could ever make from Tesla.

"The tactics they have resorted to are disingenuous or outright false. I will address their underhanded attacks below. While this discussion focuses on Fremont, these same principles apply to every Tesla facility worldwide."

The UAW and Moran declined to comment immediately. But they have previously denied that Moran was paid to agitate for a union but that it would, naturally be delighted to welcome them. 

"Mr. Moran is not and has not been paid by the UAW. We would hope that Tesla would apologize to their employee, Mr. Moran, for spreading fake news about him. We can confirm that Mr. Moran and others at Tesla have approached the UAW, and we welcome them with open arms," the UAW wrote in a statement at the time.

Overflowing parking is our proof

Moran had written: "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."

tesla fremont factory

Musk dismissed that account as untrue and said the evidence of this was Tesla's overflowing employee parking lot (emphasis ours).

"Obviously, this cannot be true: if three quarters of his team suddenly went on medical leave, we would not be able to operate that part of the factory. Furthermore, if things were really even worse in other departments, that would mean something like 80% or more of the factory would be out on injury, production would drop to virtually nothing and the parking lot would be almost empty."

Moran had written that most Tesla production workers are paid between $17-$21 an hour asserting it was below the average national auto worker wage of $25.58 and below what he called the "living" wage in that part of the Bay Area of $28 an hour.

Musk's response: Moran was not calculating wealth from employee's stock benefits which mature over four years. He published a chart that did seem to support the idea that Tesla workers get paid less cash ($157,040, compared to $199,368 at GM), but it concluded that with the stock benefits, Tesla employees earned "70,000 and $100,000 more in total compensation" over that time, since 2013.

As for overtime, he said that Tesla has already addressed that and as of January 1, employees were averaging "about 43 hours per week" and that the Model 3 will not result in as much mandatory overtime as the Model X.

"The average amount of hours worked by production team members this year is about 43 hours per week. The percentage of overtime hours has declined by almost 50% since the super tough time we had last year achieving rate on the Model X, which is probably the hardest car to build in history. What an amazing accomplishment! It is also a lesson learned, which is why Model 3 is designed to be dramatically easier to manufacture.

Free frozen yogurt and roller coaster

Musk made one more point. He wanted Tesla to be a "fun" place to work and was promising workers "free frozen yogurt stands scattered around the factory."

cups frozen yogurt

He was also going to make good on an earlier, almost joking promise to create "a Tesla electric pod car roller coaster (with an optional loop the loop route, of course!)" to make traveling around the campus "fast and fun."

While Musk's response did address and dismiss the complaints, if Tesla continues to succeed like it has been, we suspect this won't be the last Musk hears about unions.

 



More From Business Insider