The CEO is known for outsized claims and ambitious goals. But numerous factory workers say he doesnt follow through and that his leader gives a troubling tone

It was ” a lord class in psychological intellect”, raved the business magazine Inc, and” a strong assignment in authentic, sincere leadership “.

Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, had emailed his entire faculty following the May 2017 publishings of separate investigations by the Guardian and a workplace safety organization showing high trauma proportions at the company’s northern California electric car factory.

” No terms can express how much I care about your safety and wellbeing ,” Musk wrote.” Going forward, I’ve asked that every hurt report back instantly to me, without exception. I’m meeting with the safety team every week and would like to meet every disabled person as soon as they are well, so that I are aware of from them exactly what we need to do to make it better. I will then go down to the production line and perform the same task that they act .”

Musk, an accountability Houdini, had turned the facts of the case that some of his employees were dealing with life-changing injuries into glowing press about his leader. If only his promises were true.

” He didn’t meet with me ,” said Richard Ortiz, a former Tesla factory worker who was injured at work in July 2017.

” That’s PR; that’s bologna ,” said another current Tesla employee, who said Musk had never met with him about the three pinched nerves in his arm.

” He didn’t meet with me, and my occurrence was registered ,” said a third Tesla employee, who was injured in October.” If he was truly going to meet with all the employees who got disabled, he would be here for half its first year .”

Whether Musk ever intended to follow through on his message to meet” every disabled being” is an open question. But in conversations with more than 10 current and former Tesla employees over the past few months, proletarians described the consequences of having a boss whose bombastic promises- to stockholders, to customers and to them- frequently become unfulfilled. While the billionaire’s loose tongue and overly optimistic statements may still excite his legions of fans and clients, many factory worker feel that they have become collateral damage.

Of the workers who spoke to the Guardian for this article, six had been injured at work. None of them never heard directly from Musk or had him perform their task on the assembly line.

Workers within the Tesla factory be talking about intense deadlines and traumata. Photograph: Joe Skipper/ Reuters

A Tesla spokesman said that Musk had met with injured laborers “many times” and worked on the assembly line ” many times” and supported their lists of 10 works that they said could attest to this.” Elon is in the factory, on the production line, nearly every day ,” the spokesperson said of Musk, who is also the CEO of two companies, SpaceX and the Boring Company, that are based in southern California.” A significant part of his time is expended talking directly with yield hires about what improvements they would like to see or concerns they have .”

” I’ve only “re out there” for five months, and I’ve seen[ Musk] four or five times ,” said Jimmy Guajardo, who works on the Model 3 and is are used by a subcontracted temp agency.” It felt really good seeing him on the line .”

Of the 10 workers whose reputation Tesla supplied, the Guardian was able to reach four, including Guajardo. None of the four had ever been injured, but they all praised Musk and said they had seen him at the factory.

Ortiz, an outspoken ally of a unionization drive at the factory, argued that even if Musk had play-act every disabled worker’s position, it’s unlikely the experience would have helped the CEO absolutely understand the difficulties and hazards of the work.

” Anyone can do anything for an hour ,” Ortiz said.” You have to do it like we do it, 12 hours per day, six days a week … Live the life we live. That’s where the wear and tear comes from .”

Musk’s pledge to meet with every disabled craftsman is by no means the only example of his over-promising. The CEO is notorious for seeing inflated claims about his businesses, whether he was announcing that he had received government approval for a New York to Washington DC hyperloop( he hadn’t ), promising to test-drive a amply autonomous Tesla coast-to-coast by the end of 2017( he didn’t ), or claiming that the Model 3 yield would contact 5, 000 autoes per week by the end of 2017( it still hasn’t ).

To one employee, an immigrant who started at Tesla in 2017, the differ between what Musk promises and what he does is indicative of a lack of ” principles “.

” In my country we have a saying,’ Even if your antagonist is a rabbit, you should at least recognize that he has large-hearted ears ,” he said.” I like Elon Musk … I like people who dream big-hearted .”

But, he included,” I’m always really surprised how he preserves causing multitudes that we have never been able to respect. He would say we would produce such and such vehicles by such appointment, and we are never able to made it. For me, a responsible person should stick with his term .) One of the lawsuits took particular issue with one front in the Musk email that speak:” In fairness, if someone is a jerk to you, but sincerely apologizes, it is important to be thick-skinned and accept that apology .”

Tesla represented the email in a blogpost, is considered that the “counterpoint” to not having a thick skin and abiding an defense” would be a cold world with no forgiveness and no middle “.

Elon Musk on the comprise of Rolling Stone magazine in 2017. Photograph: Alicia Canter for the Guardian

But to some Tesla workers, the email was perceived as a green light for harassment and discrimination.

” I couldn’t believe he said that ,” said one Tesla worker, who is black and has worked for the company since October 2014.” That’s like he opened the door for his HR and management squads to act accordingly .”

The worker, who requested not to be identified because he fears being fuelled, said that he feels he is treated like” a dummy” because he is black.

” Things said have constituted me feel like I was being called a nigger ,” he said.” I don’t think people of color should have to have thick skin when it comes to ethnic issues in the workplace, as Elon’s email indicated .”

Another Tesla factory worker, Branton Phillips, also said that Musk’s ” thick skin ” strand has been adopted as an excuse for bad behavior.

” I would never have my daughter work in there ,” the 55 -year-old cloths handler said.” It’s like a nightclub position; it’s wrong. The induces and foremen that look[ molestation ], they don’t want to make a big deal. They all say,’ Have a thick skin … Hey girl, have a thick skin .'”

A third Tesla worker, a US army veteran, concurred that telling beings to have a ” thick skin ” has now become the” scornful doctrine” of Tesla’s handling, adding that he had heard workers” outright label parties the N-word with little to no repercussions “.

” Tesla is absolutely against any form of discrimination, harassment, or unfair treatment of any kind ,” the company spokesman said. The spokesman denied that the email was a signal to anyone not to take molestation seriously.

Racial slurs aren’t the only language that the army veteran objected to. This spring, in two emails to company staff, and on an earnings call with investors, Musk debuted brand-new communication to describe a problem weighing down the good-ship Tesla: “barnacles”.

” The number of … third-party contracting business that we’re using has really gotten out of control, so we’re going to scrub the barnacles on that front ,” he said on the investor announce.” We’ve got barnacles on barnacles. So there’s going to be a lot of barnacle removal .”

A Tesla spokesperson said that Musk was referring to contractor firms , not subcontracted employees. But whatever Musk’s planned, the words were interpreted as an offend by some of the hundreds of factory workers Tesla hires through subcontracted staffing agencies.

” When the large-hearted alpha dog of the factory helps that word to describe parties, it allows other beings in the factory to start thinking about beings like that and playing that style ,” said the veteran, who worked for Tesla through a contracted staffing busines for eight months before being hired immediately. He compared the rhetorical tactic to Donald Trump calling certain countries “shitholes” or the US military dehumanizing antagonist soldiers with insinuations.

” When Elon calls lower-paid works barnacles, then “youve had” directors saying,’ Get out of here barnacle ,'” he told the Guardian a few days after Musk’s earnings call.” I’ve heard that statement more in the last week than in the rest of “peoples lives” .”

‘The main export is harms , not cars’

When an designer with extended suffer in the military and private sector went to work for Tesla in 2016, it didn’t take long for him to start to feel uneasy about his new job as a program manager.

” They were trying to press home that if you want to go work for a company that will give you enough time to do your work, then this isn’t the place ,” the engineer, who has since left the company, said of his orientation.” I came from a background where process was a good thing. At Tesla, the time it took to say the word ‘process’ was too long .”

For the engineer and many of the rank and file factory workers, there was a direct link between Musk’s vigorous make juttings and their own working conditions. For some hires, like the engineer, the high stress and long hours interfered with having any kind of family life. For others, nonetheless, working at Tesla has left them with life-altering injuries.

” Just that one day at Tesla, holy moly it changed my life ,” said Mark Vasquez, 40, of the day in 2015 when he permanently disabled his back while working at Tesla. He lost his apartment when he was assigned” light function” labour that paid a significantly lower wage, had to sell many of his belongings to make ends meet, and still deals with pain and numbness in his legs.

” I don’t go out ,” he said.” I barely see my friends. It’s depressing to have them hear me like this. I can’t march for 10 hours without get winded and having to stop and sitting there … When I have to go to the storages, I have to use one of those electrical scooter carts, and I don’t want to do that .”

The Tesla factory in Fremont, California. An investigation encounter the company had kept injuries off its notebooks. Photograph: Josh Edelson for the Guardian

Another factory worker detailed having two surgeries to address carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis in both hands- injuries he attributes to working 12 -hour changes, six days a week, on suspended vehicles with his arms above his head.

” If I were a lazier party, I probably wouldn’t be injured at all ,” said the worker, who said he is still in constant agony. While he is still employed by Tesla, he procures the” light-colored role” tasks that he gets assigned to be humiliating, like” standing in front of the class with a dunce cap “.

But the worker, who is 41 and started at Tesla in 2014, doesn’t see many other options.” The difficulty is that everything that I know how to do is with my hands ,” he said.” Everything that I ever heard of doing is with my hands, and I can’t do it .”

The Tesla spokesman represented the company, saying:” Make will never take precedence over safety- and the numbers demonstrate this. Last-place time, when production increased 20%, our hurt pace rejected more than 20% .”

A major investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal has cast serious indecision over Tesla’s assertions about its trauma paces, which must be reported to workplace safety regulators. Reveal found that Tesla had kept injuries off its works, attaining the company’s refuge record watch better than it was, and the government has opened an investigation.

In recent months, three lawsuits have been filed against Tesla alleging that the company is violating California labor constitutions by, among other things, failing to provide works with legally mandated break-dances. Tesla said that it” becomes above and beyond the requirements of California and federal principle in providing all workers with banquet and respite violates and appropriate overtime pay .”

” There ought to have slew of durations that I had to pick between eating or exploiting the bathroom ,” said one employee.” It’s not about era away from work, but time to refuel ourselves and alleviate ourselves. No one can work 100% if they really have to go to the bathroom .”

Between the pressure, the long hours, and the difficulties faced by the duty, the factory had become a” perfect blizzard” for injuries, said Phillips.” There’s not a big safety culture, and they’re shove the kids super hard for production. It’s just going to be injuries everywhere .”

The army veteran set it a different way:” This busines is spouting in aluminum, and the main export is injuries , not vehicles .”

As media its further consideration of the hurt proportions continues, however, Musk has begun speaking about the issue with his usual lack of restraint.

” We’re well on our acces to an injury rate that’s less than half of the vehicle manufacture ,” he said at the company’s shareholder fit in June 2017. As Reveal documented in its recent investigation, the company’s overall injury rate for 2017 intention up being slighting above the industry average.

When Tesla stockholders met for their annual gratify this year, Musk played the same card, be argued that the company has ” a good shot” at having an injury rate of half the industry average for 2018. During the meeting’s question and answer session, one stockholder expected Musk about his regular failure to meet the timelines he defines.

” This is something I’m trying to get better at ,” Musk said.” I’m a moderately optimistic person .”


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