Construction workers who worked in one of Tesla’s so-called giant factories will file a complaint and refer a case to the federal Labor Department on Tuesday detailing the exploitative working conditions they say they experienced while building the plant.
The whistleblower has come forward to allege serious labor and employment violations during the construction of the electric car maker’s massive new facility in AustinTexas, leaving them vulnerable to injuries and wage theft.
Amid accusations of ongoing hazards and accidents at the site, one factor He said his superiors at an unnamed subcontractor falsified their credentials instead of providing him and the others with required job training that includes education about health and safety and workers’ rights — including the right to refuse hazardous work.
Other whistleblowers They report what they describe as wage theft and say they were never paid or adequately compensated for overtime for their work at a high-tech facility.
“Nobody deserves for what happened in the giant factory to happen to them, their family members or anyone,” Victor, a worker who asked The Guardian to withhold his last name for fear of reprisals, said in an exclusive interview about working conditions: He was humane.”
Austin’s gigantic 2,500-acre factory in Tesla was one of the most important construction jobs in the United States. After workers started working on it in 2020And the As a multi-billion dollar entrepreneur and owner of Tesla, SpaceX, and now Twitter, Elon Musk has set up a central location in the United States for his auto factory. From the outside of the project, the new factory looked like an ideal place for any construction worker.
The company chose a convenient location along the Colorado River near Austin Airport, which was promoted by Musk. As a job opportunity for thousands Where it will manufacture Cybertruck Long Delay Electric Truck. Back in April, Musk wore sunglasses and a black cowboy hat in theCyber RodeoTo celebrate the venue’s first opening.
But construction workers painted a less rosy picture of the new plant, suggesting that what was supposed to be a dream job has turned into a nightmare.
On Tuesday, Victor filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), part of the Department of Labor, about allegations Forged certificates of completion The training required he says never happened.
He told The Guardian His team was instructed to work on the roof of the metallurgical plant at night without lights, work above smoke-spewing turbines without protective masks, and put themselves at risk without basic information on how to stay safe.
In one case, Victor said he and his colleagues were expected to continue production on the flooded first floor — despite noticing live wires everywhere and wires in the water. He remembers telling his wife, “I’m going to die in this factory.”
On another occasion, Victor worked with a man who was so desperate for money that he returned to the job in a brace after breaking his arm on the site.
“Every day, there was a safety issue,” he told the Guardian.
Other workers sacrificed time with loved ones to continue building the plant over Thanksgiving last year, but said they did not receive the double-wage bonuses they were promised, according to a referral of the case Tuesday to the wages and hours division of the federal Department of Labor.
In an industry as fragmented as construction, with its vast network of contractors and subcontractors, labor advocates assert that developers like Tesla ultimately have the moral power and authority to demand fair labor standards.
Still, Hannah said, “Tesla didn’t — it doesn’t seem — interested in using its power to ensure that everyone could go home at the end of the day without injuries, with all the money they owed in their pockets.” Alexander, employee attorney for the Workers’ Defense Project, a nonprofit organization that helps construction workers.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while the Workers’ Defense Project did not release identifying information about contractors and subcontractors accused of labor abuses for confidentiality reasons amid a pending investigation.
This isn’t the first time the Musk car company has been linked to safety violations.
In recent years, the Tesla plant in Fremont, California has overtaken other major US auto factories due to OSHA violations, leading to its own incursions. More than $236,000 in fines between 2014 and 2018. Likewise, in its factory outside RenaultNevada, workers suffered a large number of injuries, Including amputation.
By 2020, when the company set its sights on Austin for another plant, accusations of a highly informal relationship with workers’ rights had gone away, a broad coalition of labor groups, advocates, and county residents told the local government that any deal with Tesla would need to include strong protections. for workers.
But in the midst of intense competition with others Cities are also trying to win Tesla invested a billion dollars, local officials Green light for plan to lure electric car maker with millions in tax cuts Without enforcement mechanisms warning that defenders were necessary.
Now, some workers are dealing with the outcome.
“Everything we’re seeing is complicated by the lack of a great deal of transparency or accountability because they decided not to include this piece of independent monitoring,” said David Shinkanchan, director of policy for the Labor Protection Project.
“In general, the state of the construction industry in Texas It tends to be just a race to the bottom,” emphasized the Shinkanchan, with the exploitation of many vulnerable workers, often migrants, rampant.
Amid filings on Tuesday, the giant Austin plant is now under fire.
“Everyone is wrong,” said Victor. Anyone could have prevented it. Tesla could have prevented that.”
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