Expert Pitch

Desperate to reopen, Tesla risks workers safety

Cornell University
28-Apr-2020 11:25 AM EDT, by Cornell University

Tesla has backtracked on a plan to have some workers to return to work before San Francisco Bay area stay-at-home orders are scheduled to expire. The company, expected to report quarterly earnings on Wednesday, said production at its Fremont, California plant will not resume this week.

Arthur Wheaton, an expert on the automotive industry at Cornell University’s ILR School, says management is trying to save the company from bankruptcy, but opting for an early opening would be risky and possibly illegal.


Wheaton says: “Tesla is attempting to restart its production lines as soon as possible. Tesla, like all car manufacturers, is bleeding hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in lost revenue. It is not a silly idea to try to save the company from bankruptcy, but it is risky and possibly illegal.

“The Detroit Three (GM, Ford, FCA) workers are represented by the UAW and have collective bargaining agreements. Those contracts require discussion of health and safety issues between UAW and the company. Tesla, Honda, Kia, Hyundai, Toyota and pretty much all of the other car producers are not unionized in the U.S. and can unilaterally fire any employees at any time except for race, religion, gender or other federally protected civil rights.

“Tesla has already shown willingness to violate the law by keeping open beyond mandatory shut down and trying to open before stay-at-home orders are lifted. No production at Fremont means no cars or revenue for Tesla motors in the U.S. Tesla is desperate and arrogant and holds little regard for worker safety as shown in multiple OSHA violations.

“GM, Ford, and FCA would also love to open but they are taking a more well-thought-out approach and seeking employee feedback and suggestions for returning safely as state and local governments allow. Thousands of potential lives are at risk for workers, families and communities along with the economy costs to those same workers, families and communities.”

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