- Jose Moran, a Tesla employee, publicly criticized management at the electric car manufacturer’s Fremont, CA plant for safety violations and what he describes as poor treatment of workers, reports SFGate. In a public post on Medium, Moran rallied Tesla workers to unionize and confirmed that a group of coworkers had entered talks with the United Auto Workers union.
- Moran said Tesla pushes workers into putting in long hours at an increasingly fast pace to meet manufacturing demands, says SFGate. He also claimed workers at the Fremont plant face hazardous conditions that cause preventable on-the-job injuries.
- Based on data from California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, Tesla has had more than 30 citations for safety violations in the past five years, per SFGate. Of those citations, 10 are categorized as “serious,” or capable of causing severe injuries or death.
Tesla argues that Moran is using safety complaints as a reason for unionizing, but the company’s history of citations for safety violations begs the question. Workplace safety has been a thorny issue for blue-collar fields given statistics that workplace fatalities have gone up even as the number of injuries has decreased.
Moran claimed that workers felt intimidated about bringing their concerns to management. If conditions are as hostile as workers describe, the company’s environment is fertile ground for unionization. The National Labor Relations Act protects workers’ right to assemble, talk about working conditions and unionize, if they so choose.
Moran's assertion that auto workers across the industry earn more than Tesla employees is also interesting given CEO Elon Musk's positioning of the company as an innovator in the auto industry. It remains to be seen whether competitors like General Motors and Ford will deliver on their promises to create more manufacturing jobs.
HR executives must take the lead in such situations to ensure that the company complies with all safety regulations and workplace laws, investigates and follows up on workers’ complaints without retaliation.