Tesla has failed to report some worker injuries at its California factory on legally mandated reports, which helped make “the company’s injury numbers look better than they actually are,” according to a new report from the Center for Investigative Reporting’s magazine Reveal. Tesla disputed every one of Reval’s findings, and accused the news outlet of being a tool of an ongoing unionization drive.
Reveal says it interviewed more than three dozen current and former employees—some who are named in the story—and reviewed hundreds of pages of documents. Injuries on sprains, strains, and stress injuries never made it onto state and federal reports that companies must keep, Reveal reported, and instead:
company officials labeled the injuries personal medical issues or minor incidents requiring only first aid, according to internal company records obtained by Reveal.
Undercounting injuries is one symptom of a more fundamental problem at Tesla: The company has put its manufacturing of electric cars above safety concerns, according to five former members of its environment, health and safety team who left the company last year. That, they said, has put workers unnecessarily in harm’s way.
Tesla has been facing an ongoing unionization drive led by the United Auto Workers union, which began over some of the very claims highlighted in the piece. The company’s been accused of firing workers for supporting the union effort, something the National Labor Relations Board is challenging the company on; the company’s previous claim that it now has a better injury rate than the industry average has now been reduced to... the same as the industry average, according to Reveal.
Here’s how Tesla explained the change:
“Our 2017 data showed that we are at industry average, so we’re happy about that,” Shelby said, explaining the earlier claims as a “snapshot in time.”
In response, Tesla accused Reveal—which has produced high-quality journalism for years and has previously been nominated for Pulitzer Prizes among other awards—of merely being a tool of the UAW.
We welcome constructive criticism, but those who care about journalistic integrity should strive for the truth above all. Unfortunately, the writers at Reveal paint a completely false picture of Tesla and what it is actually like to work here. In our view, what they portray as investigative journalism is in fact an ideologically motivated attack by an extremist organization working directly with union supporters to create a calculated disinformation campaign against Tesla.
I asked Tesla for additional comments on what they disputed in the story—which you can read entirely here—and will update the post if I hear back.
Update, 2 p.m.: Tesla has responded with a lengthy statement that reiterates much of what Reveal already included in its story. In a blog post, the company included a TRUTH TABLE:
I’ve asked Tesla for evidence on why it believes Reveal is an extremist organization that worked directly with the UAW to publish a story. I’ll update if I hear back.
Update, 2:28 p.m.: A Tesla spokesperson declined to offer any additional comment, when asked bubble Jalopnik for evidence of why it believes Reveal worked “directly” with union supporters.