Workers in Texas who built the Austin Gigafactory are filing a complaint against Tesla for charges that range from unsafe working conditions to wage theft. As of November 15, these former Tesla workers have started the process to report a litany of violations to the Department of Labor, according to the Guardian.
The Gigafactory in Austin sits on 2,500 acres in the Texas Hill Country along the Colorado River. The site is also known as Giga Texas to many, who saw the 10 million square foot factory as a boon to the construction industry in Texas when Elon Musk announced his company’s big move from California.
But builders say they were told to work without being trained or briefed on proper safety procedures; subcontractors allegedly went so far as to falsify safety credentials for workers, then proceeded to put them in unsafe conditions, including flooded factory floors where live wiring was ignored.
In another case, workers were told to work on metal roofs late into the night without lighting. And in another, they were instructed to continue working on turbines that were blowing smoke without protective masks.
Workers were also encouraged to ignore workplace injuries or risk their jobs and compensation. And to top it all off, the workers are claiming they were misled about overtime pay, at best, or are being refused pay altogether, at worst.
It’s a shitshow all around, which isn’t surprising in the world of construction. Contractors and subcontractors have gotten by with predatory and exploitative behavior for years, if not decades, because there’s always a worker at the base of the scaffold to replace the others. Meanwhile, the big company that’s paying the contractors to get the work done as fast and cheaply as possible looks the other way, which is exactly what the Giga Texas construction workers are claiming.
The problem is that it also involves cities and states where the work is done, because these are competing for lucrative investments, per the Guardian:
But amid tight competition with other cities also trying to win Tesla’s billion-dollar investment, local officials greenlit a plan to draw the electrical carmaker in with millions in tax rebates – and without the enforcement mechanisms advocates warned were necessary. [...]
“Everything that we’re seeing is complicated by the fact that there isn’t a whole lot of transparency or accountability because they decided not to include that independent monitoring piece,” said David Chincanchan, Workers Defense Project’s policy director.
“In general, the state of the construction industry in Texas tends to be just a race to the bottom,” Chincanchan asserted, where exploitation of many vulnerable workers, often immigrants, runs rampant.
This marks the latest complaint against Tesla, among a number of previous and ongoing reports that’ve been brought to the federal department through its smaller agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The EV maker has accrued quite a record of safety violations, and the Guardian says Tesla now outpaces all major auto makers in the U.S. for such violations. Some of which have resulted in fines the agency has ordered Tesla to pay. These have included cases in California and Nevada where workers suffered serious injuries, inlcuding amputations. The Gigafactory Texas workers did not report such injuries, but said the constant hazards and accidents onsite during the construction of the Tesla factory prompted them to file their complaint.