Tesla Workers Reportedly Fainting on Factory Floor Due to Exhaustion
Since 2014, ambulances have reportedly visited Tesla’s Fremont plant hundreds of times.
For a relatively small company like Tesla, keeping up with CEO Elon Musk's ambitious production goals is arguably its biggest struggle. The company is still, at the end of the day, a startup building a manufacturing base in America, which comes with inherent challenges. These challenges have apparently taken a toll on some of Tesla's factory employees, according to a report by The Guardian.
According to the article, some Tesla plant workers have literally been passing out on the factory floor from exhaustion. Since 2014, ambulances have reportedly been called to Tesla's facility in Fremont, California, over 100 times to respond to workers "experiencing fainting spells, dizziness, seizures, abnormal breathing and chest pains." EMS had to be summoned to the 10,000-worker plant hundreds of more times over "injuries and other medical issues," the article states.
In a phone interview with the newspaper, Tesla CEO Elon Musk admitted that the employees have been "having a hard time, working long hours, and on hard jobs" but asserted that he cares "deeply about their health and wellbeing," adding that in the last year, the factory's safety record has improved significantly.
In an amazing change of subject, Musk himself admits Tesla's frankly outlandish market cap of $50 billion is overvalued: "I do believe this market cap is higher than we have any right to deserve." He then turned attention to the fact that his company's valuation rivals, if not exceeds, that of General Motors while producing just 1 percent of GM's output. From The Guardian:
We’re a money-losing company. This is not some situation where, for example, we are just greedy capitalists who decided to skimp on safety in order to have more profits and dividends and that kind of thing. It’s just a question of how much money we lose. And how do we survive? How do we not die and have everyone lose their jobs?
The report goes on to detail several current and former employee accounts of people just passing out in the middle of the production line, permanent strains and pains resulting from less-than-ideal working conditions, long hours, a culture that encourages "manning up" and powering through injuries instead of reporting them, and a general disconnect between the media's portrayal of Tesla's sleek, almost-Utopian Silicon Valley startup culture and the reality that its plant workers face everyday:
I’ve seen people pass out, hit the floor like a pancake and smash their face open. They just send us to work around him while he’s still lying on the floor.
From what I’ve gathered, Elon Musk started Tesla kind of like an app startup, and didn’t realize that it isn’t just nerds at a computer desk typing. You really start losing the startup feel when you have thousands of people doing physical labor.
While Musk admits this is an issue, the Tesla founder and CEO defends himself by saying his office is located in "the most painful place" in the factory, and notes that he once slept on the factory floor in a sleeping bag in early 2016 in order to "make it the most painful thing possible."
"I wanted to work harder than they did," Musk said, "to put even more hours in because that’s what I think a manager should do."
The report notes that not all of Tesla's plant workers have negative experiences. "I’ve got benefits, I’ve got stocks, I’ve got [paid time off]. I thoroughly enjoy my work and I feel I’m treated fairly," said one employee. Some employees are united in having a certain sense of pride over being such a significant part of the electric car revolution and changing the world for the better. For some, however, the price of that pride may be health and well-being issues.