Last year at least 100 workers were brought in from Eastern Europe to expand a high-tech paint shop at Tesla, and were reportedly paid as little as $5 an hour.
One of the workers, Gregory Lesnik, fell three stories onto the factory floor. He survived, but is suing Tesla, alleging that the company has been benefiting from cheap, foreign labor brought in on fraudulent visas, known as B1 & B2 visas. Those visas are usually used for tourism, and business travel.
“The certification process around it is nil,” Michael LRoy, Professor of Labor and Employment Relations at the University of Illinois said.
LeRoy told KCBS that companies have been abusing the visas in order to bring low-cost labor into the U.S.
“They’re brought in by contractors physically, and then they’re diverted into some kind of work relationship, often with abusive working conditions,” LeRoy said.
In sworn testimony, Lesnik said his typical workday lasted 10 hours for at least six days a week, and sometimes even Sunday.
In response to the Mercury News report, the company said “Tesla proudly employs 6,000 American workers from the Bay Area on the floor of the same factory that had previously been shuttered by NUMMI.” The response continued, “Tesla sometimes brings in third party general contractors to do short-term construction projects at the factory.”