While watching Tesla’s shareholder livestream, Terry Collingsworth, a human rights lawyer representing the Sisters of Good Shepherd, presented his thoughts on Proposal 7 for the 2020 Tesla shareholder meeting. Proposal 7 put forth the idea that Tesla should provide additional reporting on human rights.
“My organization brought the pending suit against Tesla for using cobalt mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo by young children. I personally met young boys who lost limbs or were paralyzed in cobalt tunnel collapse. Tesla sources cobalt from these very mines and its or has claimed to have “zero-tolerance for child labor” in its supplier is simply not true. Tesla is not only tolerating child labor in its cobalt sc it is tolerating the death and maiming of young child miners.”
In regards to human rights, I believe that all companies should do their part. Tesla has indeed taken a stand against child labor. Tesla recently joined the newly formed Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA), Tesmanian reported. FCA is committed to ending child labor in mining operations and improving working conditions in Congo. FCA is also backed by Glencore Plc.
Glencore is the company that has been struggling to get one of its mines back from artisanal miners who use child or slave labor. The mine in question, the Tilwezembe concession, has been overrun by artisanal miners since 2011.
I think that accusing Tesla of “tolerating the death and maiming of young child miners” is not only harsh and unfair, but also insinuates that Tesla, not those who are actually enslaving children, is responsible. It also insinuates that the government of the DRC is not responsible for what’s going on in its own country. Glencore has tried many times to get the DRC to resolve the situation, and it has repeatedly shared concerns about the labor conditions there.
"Because Tesla recognizes the higher risks of human rights issues within cobalt supply chains, particularly for child labor in the [Congo (“DRC”)], we have made a significant effort to establish processes to remove these risks from our supply chain." – Tesla 2019 Impact Report
— Æx (@anonyx10) September 22, 2020
Another thing that Collingsworth claimed was that “workers are being exposed to Covid-19 and facing retaliation when they ask for greater protections.” It is not clear where his information for that came from, and thus whether it has any validity.
Tesla was in the news earlier this year and ostracized by a few politicians and the mainstream media for standing up for its right to reopen alongside other manufacturers. Never mind that Tesla had the greenlight to reopen.
Also, what wasn’t even considered was that Tesla had been through the reopening stages after a pandemic previously? How is this possible? Well, seemingly unbeknownst to many, Tesla has a factory in Shanghai — one that the company completely owns. Tesla was the first foreign-owned factory in China and that factory was shut down during China’s round with the pandemic — before the lockdowns began all over the world.
By the time we were in our lockdown here, Tesla was working with the Chinese government to reopen its factory and was one of the first to do so. Tesla even published guidelines on getting back to work with a restart plan that was the result of months of careful planning and preparation. “It was modeled after the comprehensive return to work plan we established at our Shanghai Gigafactory, which has seen smooth and healthy operations for the last three months,” noted Tesla in its blog post at the time.
I think that this bias against Tesla has been marketed by the mainstream media and some in politics. The former gets insane ratings for every negatively phrased headline, while the latter get likes, shares, and retweets of their catchy “Tesla is the bad guy” themed political tweets. Seeing an American company that is working so hard at making the world a better and cleaner place being treated in this manner by both the media and some of our political leaders saddens me. We should champion our innovators — not trash them because it pays well.
I think the negative claims made by Collingsworth in the annual shareholder meeting were misleading and false. Tesla is not condoning child slave labor and the death and maiming of child miners. It also is not recklessly operating its factories, based on everything I’ve seen. Also, given a long history of smear campaigns aimed at Tesla, it’s hard to believe any such claims on the surface and without any proof to back them up.