Some non-Twitter Elon Musk news, in case you felt the need for that.
On Tuesday, the Austin-based nonprofit Workers Defense Project announced it was filing complaints with the federal Department of Labor (DOL) alleging wage theft and falsified safety training during construction of auto manufacturer Tesla’s so-called Gigafactory in Travis County. The 2,500-acre factory along the Colorado River opened in April following almost two years of construction. Tesla’s CEO is the centibillionaire Elon Musk, also of SpaceX and Twitter fame.
Together, the filings allege that an unspecified number of workers were not paid at all or were shorted on overtime pay during construction of the Tesla site and that a worker named Victor was provided with falsified Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certificates for training he did not actually receive. These workers were not employed directly by Tesla, but rather by an assortment of contractors and subcontractors. The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division and OSHA are empowered to investigate such claims, and the companies involved could face monetary or even criminal penalties. Workers Defense redacted the contractors’ names and full names of workers to avoid retaliation or impeding federal investigation, a spokesperson said.
“We have dozens of workers who have come forward to Workers Defense with wage theft allegations … from a couple thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars,” staff attorney Hannah Alexander said Tuesday, “and workers report this wasn’t just happening to them but to others building the Tesla Gigafactory—potentially hundreds more.”
In an interview with TheGuardian, Victor—the worker who allegedly received fake OSHA certificates—also said he was made to work on a metal roof at night without lights and to keep working in a flooded area. “Nobody deserves what happened in the gigafactory to happen to them, or their family members, or whomever,” he told the British newspaper.
In an email Tuesday, DOL spokesperson Juan J. Rodriguez wrote: “The Wage and Hour Division takes allegations of workers’ rights abuses very seriously, and the division will investigate the alleged violations. The division works closely with groups like the Workers Defense Project to promote and ensure that employers comply with federal labor regulations that protect the nation’s workers.” Information pertaining to the OSHA complaint did not immediately appear in the agency’s online database.
Outside Texas, Tesla has become well known for wide-ranging worker safety, record-keeping, and union-busting violations. In choosing Texas for its Gigafactory, Musk’s company—whose market value has dropped lately amid issues including Musk’s questionable Twitter takeover—chose the state already home to arguably the deadliest construction industry in the nation.
I don’t have anything to add to this. I just wanted to flag it so that those of you who may be enjoying a moment of schadenfreude at Musk’s expense get the fullest experience you can. You’re welcome. TPR and the Austin Chronicle have more.