Source: E-Cell, IIT Bombay

Production Hell is coming at the U.S.-based electric car making giant as it is trying to build 500,000 cars. The people making the cars agree and those people want to organize. Hell at work is a technical inconvenience for Musk – the billionaire CEO of the EV maker.

The fears of a Tesla employee

During a July 28 announcement, Musk told Tesla employees, “Frankly, we’re going to be in production hell. For at least six months, maybe longer.” Currently, the electric carmaker is selling a small number of high-end cars. Tesla announced recently its plans to massively increase production and enter the mass market with its Model 3 car.

Hell feels like tendinitis, herniated neck disks, and carpal tunnel for several Tesla factory workers who are trying to unionize currently. In an interview to The Daily Beast, Michael Sanchez said, “Having to look up every day, 12 hours a day, six days a week, hands over my shoulder, it was two herniated disks in my neck.” Sanchez has now moved to work on door panels of the electric car, which is comparatively less-intensive work.

He added, “After three-plus years working at Tesla, it just starts adding on until you’re living the pain every day. Whether you’re off work or not.” The electric car making giant is representing its cars as the eco-friendly car of the future, however, the EV maker is still relying on the physical labor of workers who assemble cars in its factory in Fremont, California. Sanchez started working for the company just when the factory workers began murmuring about a union last summer.

The union drive of the automaker is still stalling a year later when the car making giant is shifting into high gear. Sanchez told The Daily Beast, “The main thing that’s holding it back is the fear. The fear of people not aware what their rights are.” He continued, “But what Tesla feeds them during meetings is the thought that ‘maybe I’ll lose my job, or maybe I’ll lose my opportunity for a lead.’”

A pro-union employee reveals ‘way of working’ of Tesla

For unionized factories, the management of the electric car making giant has a ready-made warning of the worst-case scenario. The Fremont factory that used to be the site of a joint venture between General Motors and Toyota – NUMMI – shut down in 2010. This came after General Motors announced bankruptcy and pulled out of the partnership.

Sanchez said, “They retaliate just by telling people that the union is worthless that they’re the ones that ruined NUMMI. And it’s not true.” A Tesla representative suggested in a phone call with The Daily Beast that the union of NUMMI might have contributed to its closure. Alan Ochoa, a pro-union employee, said that the anti-union push of the automaker has played out in arguments between managers and workers on the factory floor. Ochoa said, “Every time we go out there and try to hand out flyers, security comes and talks to us for 20 to 30 minutes, takes our badges, makes sure we’re employees of the factory. Sometimes people from HR come, and they don’t hold back on their opinions on the matter.”

 

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