Construction workers at Tesla’s Gigafactory in Texas are suing for labor violations

Construction workers who worked at one of Tesla’s so-called giant factories will file a complaint and case referral with the federal Department of Labor on Tuesday detailing exploitative working conditions they say they experienced while building the plant.

The whistleblower has come forward to allege gross labor and employment violations during the construction of a massive new electric-car maker facility in Austin, Texas, that left them vulnerable to injuries and wage theft.

Amid accusations of constant hazards and on-site accidents, one worker said his bosses at an unnamed subcontractor falsified their credentials instead of providing him and others with required job training that included education about health and safety and worker rights — including the right to refuse hazardous work.

Other whistleblowers report what they describe as wage theft and say they were not paid at all or received adequate overtime compensation for their work at a high-tech facility.

“No one deserves what happened in the giant factory to happen to them, their family members or anyone,” Victor, the worker, who asked The Guardian to withhold his last name for fear of reprisal, said in an exclusive interview about working conditions, adding: “I don’t think it’s He was human.”

Tesla’s giant, 2,500-acre Austin factory had one of the hottest construction jobs in the US after workers began working on it in 2020.And the As a multi-billionaire entrepreneur and owner of Tesla, SpaceX, and now Twitter, Elon Musk has set up a central location in the US for his car factory. From the outside of the project, the new factory looked like the perfect home for any builder.

The company has chosen a suitable location along the Colorado River near the Austin airport, which Musk described as a job opportunity for thousands and where it will manufacture its long-awaited Cybertruck electric pickup truck. Back in April, Musk donned sunglasses and a black cowboy hat to the Cyber ​​Rodeo to celebrate the venue’s first opening.

But construction workers painted a less rosy picture of the new factory, 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 fake certificates of completion for required training 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, to work over turbines that were spewing smoke without protective masks, and to put themselves in danger 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 noting 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 for a man who was so desperate for money, he returned to the job at a brace after breaking his arm on site.

“Every day, there was a safety issue,” he told the Guardian.

Other workers sacrificed time with loved ones to continue building the plant during Thanksgiving last year, but said they did not receive the double-pay bonuses they were promised, according to the case’s referral Tuesday to the federal Labor Department’s wages and hours division.

In an industry as fragmented as construction, with its vast network of contractors and subcontractors, labor advocates maintain that developers like Tesla ultimately have the power and moral authority to demand fair labor standards.

Still, Hannah said, “Tesla didn’t — it didn’t seem — interested in using its power to ensure that everyone could go home at the end of the day uninjured, with all the money they owed in their pockets.” Alexander, staff attorney for the Workers’ Advocacy Project, a nonprofit organization that helps construction workers.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while the Labor Defense Project has not released identifying information about contractors and subcontractors accused of labor violations on grounds of confidentiality amid a pending investigation.

This isn’t the first time Musk’s car company has been linked to safety violations.

In recent years, Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, has outpaced other major US auto plants for OSHA violations, racking up more than $236,000 in fines between 2014 and 2018. Similarly, at its factory outside Reno, Nevada, workers have suffered a slew of injuries. Including amputation.

By 2020, when the company set its sights on Austin for another factory, accusations of an overly informal relationship with workers’ rights had gone too far, and a broad coalition of labor groups, advocates, and county residents told local government that any deal with Tesla would need to include strong protections. for workers.

But amid stiff competition with other cities also trying to win Tesla’s billion-dollar investment, local officials have given the go-ahead to a plan to lure the electric car maker with millions in tax rebates — and without the enforcement mechanisms that advocates warned were necessary.

Now, some workers are dealing with the consequence.

“Everything we’re seeing is complicated by not having as much transparency or accountability because they decided not to include this piece of independent monitoring,” said David Shinkanchan, policy director of the Workers’ Protection Project.

“Overall, the state of the construction industry in Texas tends to be a race to the bottom,” Shinkanchan asserted, with exploitation of many vulnerable workers, often immigrants, rampant.

Amid filings on Tuesday, the giant Austin plant is now under fire.

Everyone is wrong, said Victor. Anyone could have prevented that. Tesla could have prevented that.”

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