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

It was ” a lord class in emotional ability”, raved the business magazine Inc, and” a strong reading in genuine, fervent leadership “.

Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, had emailed his entire personnel following the May 2017 booklets of separate investigations by the Guardian and a workplace safety organization showing high-pitched harm paces 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 report back directly to me, without exception. I’m meeting with the safety team every week and would like to meet every disabled being 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 act .”

Musk, an accountability Houdini, had turned the fact that some of his employees were dealing with life-changing injuries into glowing press about his leader. If exclusively 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 injured, he would be here for half its first year .”

Whether Musk ever intended to follow through on his word to meet” every disabled being” is an open question. But in conversations with more than 10 present and former Tesla employees over the past month, works described the consequences of having a boss whose bombastic predicts- to shareholders, to customers and to them- often go unfulfilled. While the billionaire’s loose tongue and overly optimistic proclamations may still excite his legions of fans and patrons, 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 ever heard instantly from Musk or had him perform their task on the assembly line.

Workers inside the Tesla factory speak of intense deadlines and hurts. Photograph: Joe Skipper/ Reuters

A Tesla spokesman said that Musk had met with injured works “many times” and worked on the assembly line ” many times” and rendered the names of 10 laborers that “theyre saying” could attest to this.” Elon is in the factory, on the production line, nearly every day ,” the spokesman 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 immediately 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 are used by a subcontracted temp agency.” It felt really good seeing him on the line .”

Of the 10 workers whose calls Tesla provided, 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 adherent of a unionization drive at the factory, argued that even if Musk had played every injured worker’s job, it’s unlikely the experience would have helped the CEO absolutely understand the challenges and dangers 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 rip comes from .”

Musk’s pledge to meet with every disabled laborer is by no means the only sample of his over-promising. The CEO is notorious for building exaggerated demands 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 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 contrast 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 foe is a rabbit, you should at least recognize that he has big ears ,” he said.” I like Elon Musk … I like people who dream big .”

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

” 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 words with a grain of salt, the billionaire’s proclamations- whether issued by company email, investor earnings announce, the press, or Twitter- still loom large over the workplace.

In May 2017, Musk emailed the entire corporation a word 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 hires alleging sexual harassment, gender discrimination, racism and homophobia in the workplace.( Tesla has denied evil .) One of the lawsuits took particular subject with one path in the Musk email that read:” 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 countenancing an justification” would be a cold world with no forgiveness and no middle “.

Elon Musk on the treat 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 handling units to act accordingly .”

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

” Things said have made 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 such as the workplace, as Elon’s email hinted .”

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

” I would never have two daughters work in there ,” the 55 -year-old information handler said.” It’s like a nightclub attitude; it’s wrong. The induces and overseers that understand[ 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” insulting ideology” of Tesla’s management, adding that he had heard works” outright announcement parties the N-word with little to no repercussions “.

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

Racial slurs aren’t the only language that the army veteran objected to. This outpouring, in two emails to busines staff, and on an earnings call 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 employing 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 employees. But whatever Musk’s planned, the words were interpreted as an insult by some of the hundreds of factory workers Tesla hires through subcontracted staffing organizations.

” When the large-hearted alpha pup of the factory utilizes that statement to describe beings, it allows other people in the factory to start thinking about beings like that and behaving that space ,” said the veteran, who worked for Tesla through a contracted staffing busines for eight months before being hired directly. He equated the rhetorical tactic to Donald Trump calling certain countries “shitholes” or the US armed dehumanizing opponent soldiers with innuendoes.

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

‘The main export is harms , not cars’

When an designer 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 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 juttings and their own working conditions. For some hires, like the engineer, the high-pitched 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 day in 2015 when he permanently disabled his back while working at Tesla. He lost his apartment when he was assigned” light-footed imperative” make 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 discover my friends. It’s depressing to have them learn me like this. I can’t move for 10 hours without going winded and having to stop and sit down … When I have to go to the stores, 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 receive 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 sides- hurts he attributes to working 12 -hour transformations, six days per week, on suspended vehicles with his arms above his head.

” If I were a lazier being, I probably wouldn’t be injured at all ,” said the worker, who said he is still in constant hurting. While he is still employed by Tesla, he find the” lighting duty” 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 problem is that everything that I is well aware 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:” Make will never take precedence over safety- and the numbers demonstrate this. Last year, when make increased 20%, our injury pace refused more than 20% .”

A major investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal has cast serious uncertainty over Tesla’s claims about its harm proportions, which must be reported to workplace safety regulators. Reveal found that Tesla had kept injuries off its journals, becoming the company’s refuge record watch 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 proletarians with legally mandated destroys. Tesla said that it” exits above and beyond the requirements of California and federal statute in providing all workers with snack and residual separates and appropriate overtime pay .”

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

Between the pressure, the long hours, and certain difficulties of the task, the factory had become a” perfect rain” for hurts, said Phillips.” There’s not a big security culture, and they’re thrust the minors super hard for production. It’s just going to be injuries everywhere .”

The army veteran gave it a different way:” This companionship is gushing in aluminum, and the central export is hurts , not vehicles .”

As media scrutiny of the hurt frequencies continues, however, Musk has begun speaking about the issue with his usual lack of restraint.

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

When Tesla shareholders converged for their annual fulfill 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 questioned Musk about his regular failure to meet the timelines he prepares.

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


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