Musk disputes claims Tesla's Calif. factory workers are overworked, underpaid

Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk shot back against claims that workers at the company’s Fremont, Calif., plant are overworked and underpaid, calling them “disingenuous and outright false.”

Musk made the comments in a lengthy email Thursday to Tesla employees, in which he pushes back against claims made earlier this month by Jose Moran, a pro-unionization worker at the plant. Moran, in a blog post, said workers there have been in contact with the UAW about concerns relating to “injuries, poor morale, unfair promotions, high turnover” and other issues.

In his email, Musk said Moran’s claims are inaccurate and portrayed the UAW as being antithetical to Tesla’s mission. He described the electric carmaker in biblical terms, saying the forces against Tesla are “many and incredibly powerful” and compared the company’s tale to that of David and Goliath, “if David were six inches tall.”

“That is why I was so distraught when I read the recent blog post promoting the UAW, which does not share our mission and whose true allegiance is to the giant car companies, where the money they take from employees in dues is vastly more than they could ever make from Tesla,” Musk wrote.

The UAW has been in contact with workers at the Tesla plant since at least last year. The union said earlier this month that it welcomes Tesla workers with “open arms” and shot back at Musk’s claim that Moran is being paid by the UAW.

Musk addressed several of Moran’s claims point-by-point in the email, which was first obtained by the website

On safety, Musk said he looked into Moran’s claim that six of eight workers on his team were on medical leave due to work-related injuries.

“Obviously, this cannot be true: if three quarters of his team suddenly went on medical leave, we would not be able to operate that part of the factory,” he wrote.

Musk: An amazing accomplishment! Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

He said that after factoring in equity grants awarded to Tesla factory workers, employees earned between $ 70,000 and $ 100,000 more in total compensation than workers at Detroit 3 plants. Moran said in his blog post that production workers make between $ 17 and $ 21 per hour, well below the industry average.

Musk also disputed Moran’s claims that employees work as much as 12 hours per day, six days per week. Musk said production workers average about 43 hours of work per week.

“The percentage of overtime hours has declined by almost 50% since the super tough time we had last year achieving rate on the Model X, which is probably the hardest car to build in history,” he said. “What an amazing accomplishment!”

Requests for comment from the UAW and Moran were not immediately returned.

The Fremont plant employs 6,000 people and was previously represented by the UAW when it was home to a longtime joint venture between General Motors and Toyota, and later briefly operated only by Toyota. The plant closed in April 2010 and was reopened by Tesla later in 2010.

Musk ended the email on a lighter note, promising that when Tesla becomes profitable, the company will install “free frozen yogurt stands scattered around the factory” and an electric roller coaster that will allow “fast and fun travel throughout our Fremont campus.”

Katie Burke contributed to this report.

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