FREMONT (CBS SF) – A man who said he assembles electric cars at the Tesla factory in Fremont is raising concerns about work-related injuries and low pay compared to other auto workers.
Jose Moran said he has worked at the factory for the past four years, often working 60 to 70 hours a week.
In a post on Medium, Moran said while his company among the most innovative in the world, he also said, “I often feel like I am working for a company of the future under working conditions of the past.”
Moran claims most of his 5,000 coworkers are working considerably more than 40 hours a week, along with mandatory overtime. He said the combination of machinery that is not ergonomic, a shortage of manpower, and being pushed to work faster to meet production goals is leading to injuries.
“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,” Moran said. “Worst of all, I hear coworkers quietly say that they are hurting but they are too afraid to report it for fear of being labeled as a complainer or bad worker by management.”
Moran also criticized pay, claiming workers are earning some of the lowest wages in the auto industry in one of the most expensive areas of the country. He claimed workers are earning about $17 to $21 an hour, lower than the industry average of $25.58 and lower than the $28 living wage in Alameda County.
“Many of my coworkers are commuting one or two hours before and after those long shifts because they can’t afford to live closer to the plant,” he said.
Moran said many of his colleagues have discussed unionizing the plant and have reached out to the United Auto Workers for support. The facility once housed the NUMMI auto plant, a joint venture between Toyota and General Motors which was unionized.
In response, Moran said the company has offered to raise base pay for employees, but the company has also required workers to sign a “confidentiality policy” that could lead to consequences for workers who speak out about wages and conditions. The policy has been challenged by members of the State Assembly.
A Tesla spokesperson issued this statement Thursday to KPIX 5:
“As California’s largest manufacturing employer and a company that has created thousands of quality jobs here in the Bay Area, this is not the first time we have been the target of a professional union organizing effort such as this. The safety and job satisfaction of our employees here at Tesla has always been extremely important to us. We have a long history of engaging directly with our employees on the issues that matter to them, and we will continue to do so because it’s the right thing to do.”
Regarding the agreement signed by employees, the automaker referenced a statement written by Todd Maron, the automaker’s general counsel, to the Assembly members. Maron said the agreement was in response to “unauthorized leaks” about product launches, specifications and improvements, that employees have the right to raise concerns to government agencies and that it was not intended to prohibit employees from discussing wages or conditions.