Tesla Inc.’s (NASDAQ: TSLA) factory in Fremont, California, was allowed to reopen this week, but workers claim the conditions there are suboptimal, and they fear exposure to COVID-19.
Carlos Gabriel, a worker who refused to return to work, told the SF Weekly, “It’s a modern day sweatshop.” Gabriel had organized a protest outside the Tesla factory at Fremont on May 16. He added, “I’ve never worked for a company as cultish as Tesla.”
Workers said that while the staff are supposed to have hands sanitized, temperatures taken, and provided with masks, the 20 minutes grace period between shifts that was put into place to reduce contact between employees was shortened to just 10 minutes. This time is not sufficient to reduce exposure between shifts that comprise over 1,000 people.
Gabriel accused the company of bullying workers, telling the outlet, “If you speak, up you’re either fired, frowned upon, or picked on.”
Why It Matters
Tesla is the only major automobile maker in the United States whose workers are non-unionized, reported SF Weekly.
Close to 5-10% of Tesla workers have not reported back to work. Tesla employees who choose to stay home might not receive government-provided unemployment benefits.
Fremont police made visits to the factory but did not fully inspect the crowded areas, such as the Model 3 assembly line, repotrs SF Weekly. The visits were limited to the Model Y assembly line, which is not yet fully staffed.
A factory worker who said his name was Art, reported that employees work between eight to 12 hours “shoulder to shoulder,” with no space for the mandated 6 feet of distance.
An anonymous employee revealed that some workers are refusing to wear masks as a political statement in support of President Trump and CEO Elon Musk. Some workers remove masks to be able to breathe easier after doing physical labor.
Tesla shares traded 0.25% lower at $825.50 in the after-hours session on Thursday. The shares had closed the regular session 1.48% higher at $827.60.
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