Just another company boss


Trouble for Tesla and Elon Musk: workers are complaining about racist coworkers, and agitating for a union.

Jose Moran—who claimed to be an employee at the Fremont factory—wrote a scathing critique of the facility and his employer, alleging “excessive mandatory overtime” and low wages. He said that he and other employees were considering unionizing and had reached out to UAW for help.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk told our sister site Gizmodo that Moran was paid by UAW “to join Tesla and agitate for the union.”

And what is wrong with that? If conditions are unjust, then rallying workers to form a union is exactly the right thing to do (also, even if conditions are relatively just, forming a union to give workers a voice is also exactly the right thing to do. You are never wrong to form a workers’ union.)

But now the story going around is that Musk has fired some of those rabble-rousers for urging unionizing. That makes him a 19th century villain in my book.

But worse…you know those complaints about coworkers freely throwing around racial slurs? Musk has a suggestion for dealing with that, too.

Part of not being a huge jerk is considering how someone might feel who is part of [a] historically less represented group, Musk wrote in the email. Sometimes these things happen unintentionally, in which case you should apologize. In fairness, if someone is a jerk to you, but sincerely apologizes, it is important to be thick-skinned and accept that apology.

Jesus.

Different suggestion: if you discover that you’ve got racists working for you who are disrupting the other workers, fire the racists. It’s that simple. If you’re able to fire people for union activities, you must have the power to fire people for naked bigotry. Why aren’t you?

Comments

  1. felicis says

    Why am I not surprised?

    Yes – he has a grand vision, and he is actively working to make that happen, and I even like pieces of it. None of that makes him a good person.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    Newton was smart, but was a jerk.
    Einstein treated his first wife and family badly.
    Werner von Braun had one hell of a “luggage”.

  3. erichoug says

    So I’m just going to say it, Elon Musk is nothing but a Silicon Valley con artist. He has a lot of high profile companies that everyone swoons over but a they don’t actually make anything and the ones that do make things don’t make a profit. How long will investors hemorrhage money into these scams before they give up and the whole thing collapses.

  4. whywhywhy says

    Unions are a lot like government. They both can be a pain in the ass but both are needed in order to reign in abuse of power.

    The best reason for a union is bad management.

  5. davidnangle says

    Back to the age of robber barons… but this crew will never, ever donate to the society that allowed them to steal so much. So, at least we won’t have libraries and hospitals and schools named after the worst of the assholes, a century from now. We can at least forget their names.

  6. antigone10 says

    The best reason for a union is because otherwise you can get stiffed on payment. If a company goes under, an individual worker has about a snowball’s chance in hell of getting the pay owed them. A union is much higher on the list of debtors that must be paid.

  7. unclefrogy says

    forming a union to give workers a voice is also exactly the right thing to do. You are never wrong to form a workers’ union.)

    I completely agree
    Unions are a democratic type of institution and like democratic governments require active involvement by all members
    many of these much touted entrepreneurs are anti-labor greedy assholes just a few steps away from slavers at heart, who would if they could operate there businesses as a sweat shop and make all employees “independent contractors”
    thus avoiding all Social Security, health insurance and retirement obligations
    and probably as many OSHA requirements as possible

    uncle frogy

  8. JoeBuddha says

    Edison invented the electric chair to try to prove how dangerous AC current is and promote his DC infrastructure, in his fight with Tesla. Yeah, he was a dick.

  9. Mark Jacobson says

    Rocket Jesus has never impressed me. Anyone who is paid much more than they should is stealing money from their workers and is therefore tacitly okay with exploitation.

  10. brett says

    But now the story going around is that Musk has fired some of those rabble-rousers for urging unionizing. That makes him a 19th century villain in my book.

    And somewhat foolish. He took over a pre-existing but defunct car plant for Tesla, complete with most of the (formerly) unionized workers coming along for the ride. Musk should have expected that sooner or later his workers would try to unionize again, especially since by all accounts he’s a workaholic who hard-drives his employees (there was a big complaint about that at SpaceX from his engineers as well).

  11. chrislawson says

    IngisKahn @12: is it OK to pretend someone is making things up when their concerns can be confirmed in easily accessible public documents?

  12. erichoug says

    IngisKahn @12: I’m not trying to scare anyone. I am literally just stating facts.Tesla and Space X, to the best of my knowledge, are the only two of his companies that currently make something and both are losing money at an alarming rate. His other companies don’t have a final product on offer. Many of them have already missed promised delivery dates.

    Though it is certainly fair to say that the possibility of a HUGE return on investments could justify the the faith in these companies, I have yet to see something that would hint that’s possible.

  13. IngisKahn says

    Tesla is definitely losing money currently, but is in a very good spot, $7b in revenue, $4.75b in equity and Model 3 has only just begun to ramp up.

    SpaceX is estimated to be in the black currently. It has launched more rockets this year than any other company in the world. Their estimated fixed cost is $800 to $900 million per year and with 16 launches so far this year they are estimated to have pulled in $1.15b and they still have 3 more launches (all with previously flown rockets) scheduled this year (including one tomorrow). And if all goes well they will be launching a test flight of their new heavy lift configuration before the end of the year.

    His other companies may just be pipe dreams, but those two are the real deal. Of course, this says nothing about what it’s like to actually work there.

  14. David C Brayton says

    Firing people for trying to organize a union was illegal the last time I checked. Unless Trump has installed a anti-labor schmutz at the NLRB, I suspect they will start issuing subpoenas soon.

  15. numerobis says

    erichoug: if I’m to believe you and indeed his companies don’t make anything, then Elon Musk has discovered how to provide rich people with electric cars without building them (I guess they spring fully formed from his ear?), how to build backup power plants without any manufacturing, and how to send satellites into space without building any rockets.

    That’s a remarkable achievement!

    I’m not sure why he has workers though. After all, his companies don’t make anything — why bother having people working in a plant, where they might start agitating for a union?

  16. says

    I’m aware of the stories about Elon Musk being a slave driving sexist ass, but that doesn’t take anything away from his achievements. To illustrate the former, a good friend of mine related a tale about the new Big Battery that Musk is installing at Jamestown, South Australia. Instead of inviting local firms to assist with the presentation night he flew in a plane load of fixers to do all the work. Ordinary vehicles were made to park a very long distance away to not spoil his presentation, and lighting the walk back to the car park after dark was provided by the occasional diesel generator. Good on TV, not so much on the ground. Locals weren’t very impressed.

    As for making money, when you’re on an exponential expansion curve, reinvesting every dollar you can scrounge in increasing production makes perfect sense, and people who have invested in Musk are enjoying the wild ride. Slow investment and quick returns wouldn’t allow Musk to achieve anything against the entrenched opposition. Who would have flown battery packs and solar panels to Puerto Rico if Musk hadn’t done so? No-one. The show goes on and Musk is its ring master.

  17. anbheal says

    @17 David C. Brayton — yes, firing them outright is illegal, as WalMart found out last year (though will fight tooth and nail to the Supreme Court, whose current majority is likely to agree with them). But there’s a long and proud robber baron history of intimidating them and re-assigning them to the shittiest jobs and docking their pay for any activity not deemed produyctive work, such as talking to co-workers. So actively pursued strategies and tactics to stop union organizing are still a proud Libertarian tradition. And will probably be legal soon. And of course in “Right-T-Be-Fired” states, anything goes, fire someone for being too black if you feel like it/ A good friend of mine was immediately shitcanned for no longer sleeping with her boss after she caught him with a whore. She contacted lawyers, they said sorry toots, right to work state.

  18. tarski says

    The labor union which my coworkers and I organized a few years ago is a part of UAW. It’s not too great an exaggeration to say that they saved my life, and I strongly hope they can help all of Tesla’s workers to unionize as well. My employer had to spend maybe half a percent of their budget more on us after our contract went into effect, and the conditions of our employment improved a heckuva lot.

    At my previous employer, in contrast, unionization efforts failed year after year because almost all employees were happy with their pay, benefits, and rights and didn’t want to risk the status quo. Surely Tesla can afford to have happy employees. Or unionized employees. It’s up to them, and either way their workers deserve better.

  19. johnmarley says

    @ numerobis (#18)

    …if I’m to believe you and indeed his companies don’t make anything, then Elon Musk has discovered how to provide rich people with electric cars without building them (I guess they spring fully formed from his ear?), how to build backup power plants without any manufacturing, and how to send satellites into space without building any rockets.
    That’s a remarkable achievement!

    FFS. Go back and read erichoug’s comments. Here, let me help:
    From #4

    He has a lot of high profile companies that everyone swoons over but a they don’t actually make anything and the ones that do make things don’t make a profit.

    From #15

    Tesla and Space X, to the best of my knowledge, are the only two of his companies that currently make something and both are losing money at an alarming rate. His other companies don’t have a final product on offer. Many of them have already missed promised delivery dates.

  20. paxoll says

    “if someone is a jerk to you, but sincerely apologizes, it is important to be thick-skinned and accept that apology.”

    Yes, this is what being an adult is. If anyone is too stupid to understand how to adult in the workplace. First being an adult means confronting the coworker with what they are doing wrong. Second part of being adult is informing the appropriate people in the company of the coworkers behavior with why you think it is inappropriate. Thirdly, if the person apologizes and stops then you drop the issue, and congratulations, you win at adulting. How to fail at adulting, saying to fire someone without going through steps first.

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