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

It was ” a lord class in emotional intellect”, raved the business magazine Inc, and” a powerful lesson in genuine, sincere leader “.

Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, had emailed his entire faculty following the May 2017 publications of separate investigations by the Guardian and a workplace safety organization showing high hurt rates 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 trauma provide information on instantly to me, without exception. I’m meeting with the safety team every week and would like to meet every injured being as soon as they are well, so that I was 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 play-act .”

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 leadership. 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 incident was filed ,” said a third Tesla employee, who was injured in October.” If he was truly going to meet with all the employees who got injured, he would be here for half the year .”

Whether Musk ever intended to follow through on his message to meet” every injured person” is an open question. But in conversations with more than 10 current and former Tesla employees over the past month, craftsmen described the consequences of having a boss whose bombastic predicts- to stockholders, to customers and to them- regularly become unfulfilled. While the billionaire’s loose tongue and overly optimistic pronouncements may still excite his legions of love and customers, numerous factory worker is of the opinion 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 “ve heard” immediately from Musk or had him perform their task on the assembly line.

Workers within the Tesla factory speak of intense deadlines and injuries. 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 provisioned the names 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, “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 expended talking immediately with yield hires about what improvements they would like to see or concerns they have .”

” I’ve only been here 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 advocate of a unionization drive at the factory, argued that even if Musk had performed every injured worker’s place, it’s unlikely the experience would have helped the CEO rightfully understand the challenges and chances of the work.

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

Musk’s pledge to meet with every injured employee is by no means the only precedent of his over-promising. The CEO is notorious for moving overdone assertions 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 make would contact 5, 000 cars per week by the end of 2017( it still hasn’t ).

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

” In my own country we have a saying,’ Even if your opponent 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 large-scale .”

But, he contributed,” I’m always really surprised how he deters affording quantities that we have never been able to respect. He would say we would produce such and such vehicles by such year, and we are never able to affected it. For me, a persons responsible should stick to his statement.

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

‘I couldn’t believe he said that’

Though Tesla factory hires may have learned to take Musk’s paroles 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 busines a letter about” doing the right thing”- ie being considerate of minorities and” not being a huge jerk “.

The email resurfaced later that time, as Tesla was hit with a number of lawsuits from employees alleging sexual harassment, gender discrimination, racism and homophobia in the workplace.( Tesla has disavowed immorality .) One of the lawsuits took particular subject with one wire 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 defended the email in a blogpost, is considered that the “counterpoint” to not having a thick skin and countenancing an confession” would be a cold world with no forgiveness and no center “.

Elon Musk on the cover-up 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 management crews to act accordingly .”

The worker, who questioned not to be identified because he horror being fired, told that he feels he is treated like” a dummy” because he is black.

” Things said have built 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 racial issues such as the workplace, as Elon’s email showed .”

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

” I would never have my daughter work in there ,” the 55 -year-old substances handler said.” It’s like a nightclub outlook; it’s wrong. The pass and foremen that verify[ 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 philosophy” of Tesla’s management, adding that he had heard proletarians” outright call people the N-word with little to no repercussions “.

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

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

” The number of … third-party contracting companies that we’re applying 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 business , not subcontracted employees. But whatever Musk’s intent, the words were interpreted as an offend by some of the hundreds of factory workers Tesla hires through subcontracted staffing agencies.

” When the big-hearted alpha pup of the factory utilizes that statement to describe parties, it allows other people in the factory to start thinking about people like that and acting that channel ,” said the veteran, who worked for Tesla through a contracted staffing bureau for eight months before being hired instantly. He equated the rhetorical tactic to Donald Trump calling certain countries “shitholes” or the US military dehumanizing adversary soldiers with insults.

” When Elon calls lower-paid laborers 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 parole more in the last week than in other regions of “peoples lives” .”

‘The main export is traumata , not cars’

When an operator with extensive experience 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 “ve been trying to” press home that if you want to go work for a company that will give you enough time to do your job, 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 product juttings and their own working conditions. For some employees, 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 working day in 2015 when he permanently injured his back while working at Tesla. He lost his apartment when he was assigned” light office” undertaking 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 read your best friend. It’s depressing to have them realise me like this. I can’t amble for 10 times without getting winded and having to stop and sit down … When I got to go to the stores, I have to use one of those electric scooter go-carts, and I don’t want to do that .”

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

Another factory worker detailed having two surgeries to address carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis in both hands- traumata he attributes to working 12 -hour alters, 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 meets the” illuminate imperative” 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 question 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:” Product will never given precedence over safety- and the numbers demonstrate this. Last time, when production increased 20%, our harm frequency diminished more than 20% .”

A major investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal has thrown serious skepticism over Tesla’s claims about its injury charges, which must be reported to workplace safety regulators. Reveal found that Tesla had kept injuries off its notebooks, building the company’s refuge record ogle better than it was, and the government has opened an investigation.

In recent months, three litigations ought to have filed against Tesla alleging that the company is violating California labor statutes by , among other things, failing to provide works with legally mandated interrupts. Tesla said that it” leads above and beyond the requirements of California and federal constitution in providing all workers with dinner and rest separates and appropriate overtime pay .”

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

Between the pressure, the long hours, and the difficulties faced by the drive, the factory had become a” perfect gust” for harms, said Phillips.” There’s not a big refuge culture, and they’re advertise the minors super hard for production. It’s just going to be injuries everywhere .”

The army veteran employed it another way:” This busines is running in aluminum, and the prime exportation is injuries , not gondolas .”

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

” We’re well on our path to an injury rate that’s less than half of the auto industry ,” 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 culminated up being slighting above the industry average.

When Tesla shareholders gratified for their annual join 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 stockholder requested Musk about his regular failure to meet the timelines he prepares.

” This is something I’m trying to work better at ,” Musk said.” I’m a fairly rosy party .”


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