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

It was ” a ruler class in psychological knowledge”, raved the business magazine Inc, and” a powerful assignment in authentic, heartfelt leader “.

Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, had emailed his entire staff following the May 2017 publications of separate investigations by the Guardian and a workplace safety organization showing high-pitched hurt 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 forwards, I’ve asked that every trauma be reported immediately 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 glowing press about his leader. If exclusively his promises are correct.

” 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 injured, he would be here for half its first year .”

Whether Musk ever intended to follow through on his statement to meet” every disabled person” is an open question. But in conversations with more than 10 present and former Tesla employees over the past few months, works described the consequences of having a boss whose bombastic hopes- to shareholders, to customers and to them- frequently lead unfulfilled. While the billionaire’s loose tongue and overly optimistic statements may still excite his legions of fans and customers, numerous factory worker feel that they have become collateral shattering.

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 harms. Photograph: Joe Skipper/ Reuters

A Tesla spokesman said that Musk had met with injured employees “many times” and worked on the assembly line ” many times” and provided the names of 10 craftsmen that “theyre saying” could attest to this.” Elon is in the factory, on the production line, nearly every day ,” the spokesman 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 wasted talking directly with make employees 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 employed by a subcontracted temp agency.” It felt really good seeing him on the line .”

Of the 10 workers whose reputation Tesla , 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 activity, it’s unlikely the experience would have helped the CEO rightfully understand the challenges and hazards 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 per day, six days a week … Live the life we live. That’s where the wear and rip comes from .”

Musk’s pledge to meet with every injured craftsman is by no means the only example of his over-promising. The CEO is notorious for reaching inflated asserts 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 yield would reach 5, 000 automobiles per week by the end of 2017( it still hasn’t ).

To one employee, an immigrant who started at Tesla in 2017, the comparison 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 opponent 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 lent,” I’m always really surprised how he remains giving quantities that we have never been able to respect. He would say we would produce such and such autoes by such time, and we are never able to punched 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 employees may have learned to take Musk’s paroles with a grain of salt, the billionaire’s proclamations- whether issued by company email, investor earnings announce, the press, or Twitter- still tower huge over the workplace.

In May 2017, Musk emailed the entire firm a message 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 disavowed wrongdoing .) One of the lawsuits took particular subject with one route in the Musk email that speak:” In fairness, if someone is a jerk to you, but sincerely defends, 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 apologetic” would be a cold world with no forgiveness and no nerve “.

Elon Musk on the consider 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 today ,” 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 control units to act accordingly .”

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

” Things said have stimulated 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 suggested .”

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

” I would never have my daughter work in there ,” the 55 -year-old materials handler said.” It’s like a nightclub outlook; it’s wrong. The guides and directors that realise[ persecution ], 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 ” had become the” contemptuous logic” of Tesla’s handling, adding that he had heard employees” outright ask parties the N-word with little to no repercussions “.

” Tesla is absolutely against any discrimination, persecution, or unfair treatment of various kinds ,” 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 springtime, in two emails to busines faculty, and on an earnings call with investors, Musk debuted brand-new expression to describe a problem weighing down the good-ship Tesla: “barnacles”.

” The number of … third-party contracting companies 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 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 corporations , not subcontracted hires. But whatever Musk’s meaning, the words were interpreted as an revile by some of the hundreds of factory workers Tesla hires through subcontracted staffing business.

” When the big alpha bird-dog of the factory utilizes that statement to describe parties, it allows other parties in the factory to start thinking about parties like that and playing that style ,” said the veteran, who worked for Tesla through a sickened staffing agency for eight months before being hired immediately. He compared the rhetorical tactic to Donald Trump calling certain countries “shitholes” or the US armed dehumanizing opponent soldiers with insults.

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

‘The main export is injuries , not cars’

When an engineer with extended 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 were 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 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 make estimates 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 disabled his back while working at Tesla. He lost his apartment when he was assigned” light-colored office” task 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 just meet my friends. It’s depressing to have them receive me like this. I can’t move for 10 instants without get winded and having to stop and sit down … When I have to go to the accumulations, I have to use one of those electrical scooter go-carts, and I don’t want to do that .”

The Tesla factory in Fremont, California. An investigation learn 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 handwritings- harms he attributes to working 12 -hour shiftings, six days per week, on suspended vehicles with his arms above his head.

” If I were a lazier person, I probably wouldn’t be injured at all ,” said the worker, who said he is still in constant pain. While he is still employed by Tesla, he discovers the” lamp job” 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 defended the company, saying:” Yield will never take precedence over safety- and the numbers demonstrate this. Last time, when yield increased 20%, our harm rate slumped more than 20% .”

A major investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal has thrown serious doubt over Tesla’s asserts about its hurt frequencies, which must be reported to workplace safety regulators. Reveal found that Tesla had kept injuries off its volumes, manufacturing the company’s refuge record review 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 constitutions by, among other things, failing to provide works with legally mandated smashes. Tesla said that it” disappears above and beyond the requirements of California and federal rule in providing all workers with meal and residue destroys and appropriate overtime pay .”

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

Between the pressure, the long hours, and the difficulty of the labour, the factory had become a” perfect cyclone” for hurts, said Phillips.” There’s not a big security culture, and they’re fight the boys super hard for production. It’s just going to be injuries everywhere .”

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

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

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

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

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


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