By Len Ramirez

FREMONT (KPIX 5) — Proposed labor rules would require Tesla and other electric car manufacturers in California to certify its employees are being treated well in order for customers to claim electric vehicle rebates.

The Tesla Fremont factory is the only major car manufacturing plant currently operating in California. Tesla says it could also very well be the last if the proposal goes forward because it would make it too difficult for future car companies to lay down roots in the Golden State.

While much of the work at the Tesla plant is done by robots, how Tesla treats its human workers is what’s behind a new proposal in Sacramento.

It would require any company making electric cars in california to be certified as having a “fair and responsible workplace” in order for those cars to get a special “clean vehicle rebate project” tax credit.

Those credits are a big incentive to buy a Tesla because they can save thousands of dollars off the price of a new car.

The idea is strongly supported by labor unions which has been trying to make inroads in the Tesla factory.

“If Tesla’s going to get a tax break, they should treat their workers better,” Ben Field, Executive Officer of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council.

Tesla’s employees are not part of the United Autoworkers Union, unlike workers for Ford, GM, or Chrysler.

“In a word, Tesla’s relationship with its workers has been terrible,” said Field. “Their safety record has been terrible. They’ve got numerous health and safety violations. They’ve been caught hiding some of those violations by keeping them off the books. Their wages and benefits are lower than they are for the rest of the industry.”

Tesla founder Elon Musk recently gave an inside tour of his factory to CBS This Morning. But so far there’s only been a written response on the rebate issue, and that was to state regulators.

In a 16-page response, Tesla said it already complies with California’s strict workplace standards and said the state was unfairly singling it out, asserting “at a minimum, any procedures must be applied consistently to all companies that manufacture CVRP-eligible vehicles, including those that have manufacturing facilities located outside of California in jurisdictions with lesser labor standards.”

The proposed labor rules could be approved in Sacramento as early as next month but it could take up to two years before it would be enforced, giving companies time to make any improvements.

 

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