The CEO is known for outsized claims and ambitious goals. But several factory worker say he doesnt follow through and that his leadership adjusts a troubling tone

It was ” a original class in psychological intellect”, raved the business magazine Inc, and” a strong exercise in authentic, heartfelt leader “.

Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, had emailed his entire personnel following the May 2017 publications of separate investigations by the Guardian and a workplace safety organization showing high-pitched injury charges at the company’s northern California electric car factory.

” No texts can express how much I care about your safety and wellbeing ,” Musk wrote.” Going forward, I’ve asked that every hurt be reported instantly to me, without exception. I’m meeting with the safety team every week and would like to meet every injured party as soon as they are well, so that I can understand 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 perform .”

Musk, an accountability Houdini, had turned the facts of the case that some of his employees were dealing with life-changing injuries into brightening press about his leader. If simply 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 happen 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 word to meet” every disabled party” is an open question. But in conversations with more than 10 current and former Tesla employees over the past month, workers described the consequences of having a boss whose bombastic hopes- to shareholders, to customers and to them- often croak unfulfilled. While the billionaire’s loose tongue and overly optimistic pronouncements may still excite his forces of fans and purchasers, numerous factory worker feel that they have become collateral injury.

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 speak of intense deadlines and traumata. Photograph: Joe Skipper/ Reuters

A Tesla spokesman said that Musk had met with disabled works “many times” and worked on the assembly line ” many times” and furnished the names of 10 works that “theyre saying” could attest to this.” Elon is in the factory, on the production line, nearly every day ,” the spokesperson said of Musk, “whos also” the CEO of two companies, SpaceX and the Boring Company, that are based in southern California.” A substantial part of his time is spent talking instantly 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 identifies Tesla plied, the Guardian was able to reach four, including Guajardo. None of the four had ever been injured, but they all praised Musk and indicated that they had seen him at the factory.

Ortiz, an outspoken booster of a unionization drive at the factory, argued that even if Musk had play-act every injured worker’s activity, it’s unlikely the experience would have helped the CEO genuinely understand the difficulties and chances of the work.

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

Musk’s pledge to meet with every injured proletarian is by no means the only sample of his over-promising. The CEO is notorious for becoming overdone declarations 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 fully autonomous Tesla coast-to-coast by the end of 2017( he didn’t ), or claiming that the Model 3 creation would contact 5, 000 gondolas per week by the end of 2017( it still hasn’t ).

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

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

But, he included,” I’m always really surprised how he hinders devoting amounts that we have never been able to respect. He would say we would produce such and such gondolas by such time, and we are never able to touched it. For me, a responsible person should stick to his message.

” As a Tesla employee, I is certainly ashamed when my CEO is lying to the public .”

‘I couldn’t believe he said that’

Though Tesla factory employees may have learned to take Musk’s statements with a grain of salt, the billionaire’s proclamations- whether issued by company email, investor earnings call, the press, or Twitter- still tower big over the workplace.

In May 2017, Musk emailed the entire firm a theme about” doing the right thing”- ie being considerate of minorities and” not being a huge jerk “.

The email resurfaced later that year, as Tesla was hit with a number of lawsuits from hires alleging sexual harassment, gender discrimination, racism and homophobia in the workplace.( Tesla has repudiated evil .) One of the lawsuits took particular issue with one row in the Musk email that speak:” In fairness, if someone is a jerk to you, but sincerely rationalizes, it is important to be thick-skinned and accept that apology .”

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

Elon Musk on the coating 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 molestation 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 handling crews to act accordingly .”

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

” Things said have drawn 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 recommended .”

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

” I would never have two daughters work in there ,” the 55 -year-old textiles handler said.” It’s like a nightclub attitude; it’s wrong. The induces and foremen that read[ harassment ], 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 people to have a ” thick skin ” has now become the” insulting logic” of Tesla’s administration, adding that he had heard craftsmen” outright request beings the N-word with little to no repercussions “.

” Tesla is absolutely against any discrimination, molestation, 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 busines faculty, and on an earnings announce with investors, Musk debuted brand-new conversation to describe a problem weighing down the good-ship Tesla: “barnacles”.

” The number of … third-party contracting companionships that we’re expending has really gotten out of control, so we’re going to scrub the barnacles on that front ,” he said on the investor call.” 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 companies , not subcontracted employees. But whatever Musk’s meaning, the words were interpreted as an offense by some of the hundreds of factory workers Tesla hires through subcontracted staffing organizations.

” When the large-hearted alpha hound of the factory employs that text to describe parties, it allows other parties in the factory to start thinking about beings like that and acting that space ,” 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 armed dehumanizing foe soldiers with innuendoes.

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

‘The main export is hurts , not cars’

When an technologist with extended event 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 ram 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 direction.” 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 aggressive product projections 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, however, 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 working day in 2015 where reference is permanently injured his back while working at Tesla. He lost his apartment when he was assigned” light duty” effort 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 scarcely understand my friends. It’s depressing to have them receive me like this. I can’t go for 10 hours without get winded and having to stop and sitting there … When I have to go to the accumulations, 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 determine the company had kept injuries off its volumes. 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 suffering. While he is still employed by Tesla, he acquires the” light-footed obedience” 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 protected the company, saying:” Yield will never take precedence over safety- and the numbers demonstrate this. Last time, when make increased 20%, our trauma pace declined more than 20% .”

A major investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal has shed serious suspense over Tesla’s pretensions about its injury proportions, which must be reported to workplace safety regulators. Reveal found that Tesla had kept injuries off its volumes, building the company’s safety record looking better than it was, and the government has opened an investigation.

In recent months, three lawsuits ought to have filed against Tesla alleging that the company is violating California labor principles by, among other things, failing to provide workers with legally mandated shatters. Tesla said that it” extends above and beyond the requirements of California and federal constitution in providing all workers with snack and residue violates and appropriate overtime pay .”

” There have been batch of occasions that I had to pick between eating or use the shower ,” said one employee.” It’s not about era away from work, but time to refuel ourselves and relieve ourselves. No one can work 100% if they really have to go to the bathroom .”

Between the pressure, the long hours, and certain difficulties of the employment, the factory had become a” perfect storm” for traumata, said Phillips.” There’s not a big safe culture, and they’re move the teenagers super hard for production. It’s just going to be injuries everywhere .”

The army veteran placed it another way:” This corporation is pumping in aluminum, and the main exportation is traumata , not autoes .”

As media scrutiny of the trauma proportions continues, nonetheless, Musk has begun speaking about the issue with his usual lack of restraint.

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

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

” This is something I’m trying to to be all right at ,” Musk said.” I’m a moderately rosy party .”


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