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Published on May 21st, 2017 | by James Ayre


Is Media Being Suckered By United Auto Workers Union As Tesla Claims?

May 21st, 2017 by  

In response to numerous reports in the mainstream media that conditions at the company’s Fremont manufacturing facility are possibly unsafe, a Tesla spokesperson recently commented that journalists are being used by the United Auto Workers union to discredit the company, and to aid in its unionizing efforts.

Is this true? Are mainstream media outlets being used by the union (which Tesla reps have in the past claimed is a tool of the large auto manufacturers)? Are they part of a broad anti-Tesla push being driven by companies that stand to lose out from the changes that Tesla is spearheading?

The recent comments included the notation that the negative press isn’t “data driven,” but is instead reliant completely on anecdotes. (As we noted in our last piece related to this, Tesla has released data that shows that safety standards at the Fremont plant are above the industry average as of 2017, following a number of operational changes.)

The recent comments included this: “We have received calls from multiple journalists at different publications, all around the same time, with similar allegations from seemingly similar sources about safety in the Tesla factory.”

And this: “Safety is an issue the UAW frequently raises in campaigns it runs against companies, and a topic its organizers have been promoting on social media about Tesla.”

Green Car Reports provides more: “Tesla went on to says that such reports ignore safety data from 2017, which it outlined in a handful of data points. Those points proclaim a 52% reduction in ‘lost time incidents’ and 30% reduction in ‘recordable incidents’ during the first quarter. Additionally, the automaker’s ‘total recordable incident rate,’ a workplace-safety metric tracked by OSHA, sits at 4.6, while the industry average hovers around 6.7. Hours worked per employee also fell, according to Tesla’s data, with a 60% reduction in overtime.”

All seemingly fair points. Though, it’s hard to tell at this point if there are still more improvements that should be made by Tesla at the Fremont plant. Additionally, if the UAW became concerned about worker issues before 2017, which seems to be the case, it stands to reason that it might have spent months planning ways to put pressure on Tesla — all while Tesla was seemingly improving workplace conditions and employee hours on its own.

The introduction of a third shift, a team of ergonomics experts, and improvements to Tesla’s safety teams seem likely to have improved conditions considerably — if that was driven at all by UAW and/or media pressure is hard to tell at this point.

In any case, does anyone reading this work at the plant and care to comment on changing/current conditions in the Tesla factory?



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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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