Billionaire entrepreneur and South Park star Elon Musk is on a lot of people’s “good” and “bad” lists when it comes to the public court of approval. His desire to bore tunnels throughout the United States to circumnavigate the nation’s traffic woes earns high marks on the former, yet his staying on President Donald Trump’s economic advisory team has bolstered many detractors’ claims occupying the latter. Especially Tesla workers at the company’s Fremont campus in California, where allegedly dour conditions have spurred calls for unionization by United Auto Workers.
Hence a leaked email obtained by BuzzFeed and others, in which Musk counters claims of poor working conditions at the Fremont campus. Also, he appeals to his employees’ collective desire for a better work-life balance with amenities like “free frozen yogurt carts” and a new “roller coaster” that will enable faster travel in and around the work place. No, seriously:
“There will also be little things that come along like free frozen yogurt stands scattered around the factory and my personal favorite: a Tesla electric pod car roller coaster (with an optional loop the loop route, of course!) that will allow fast and fun travel throughout our Fremont campus, dipping in and out of the factory and connecting all the parking lots,” Musk wrote. “It’s going to get crazy good.”
Of course, eating frozen yogurt and riding an “electric pod roller coaster” complete with an “optional loop route” will obviously lead to further discomforts at the Fremont campus. (Like the fact that everyone who does both, in this order, will be puking.) Yet the meat of Musk’s leaked email pertains to a Medium post by Jose Moran, a Tesla employee who made the initial allegations against the company and its CEO.
Aside from work weeks surging well past 40 hours with “mandatory overtime,” Moran claims workers typically earn $17 to $21 per hour as opposed to the $28.58 average earned by American auto workers. He also contends the lacking ergonomic conditions of the factory floor, and the machinery required to put together the various Tesla models, leads to frequent accidents. “A few months ago,” he writes, “six out of eight people in my work team were out on medical leave at the same time due to various work-related injuries.”
“After looking into this claim,” Musk shot back, “not only was it untrue for this individual’s team, it was untrue for any of the hundreds of teams in the factory.” He also described the United Auto Workers’ attempts to unionize Tesla employees as “disingenuous or outright false.”