The National Labor Relations Board has issued formal charges to Musk’s Tesla corporation for waging a union-busting campaign at its factories. Workers have been trying to organize with United Automobile Workers of America; as Noah Kulwin reported for Vice on Thursday evening:
The National Labor Relations Board issued an official complaint to Tesla on Thursday, citing claims by workers that Tesla prevented them from leafleting or discussing union activity and worker safety on Tesla’s Fremont, California, factory premises. The charge sheet additionally alleges that Tesla HR staffers “interrogated” an employee about “protected” union activity.
Tesla workers have complained of long hours, dangerous conditions, and low pay. “I’ve seen people pass out, hit the floor like a pancake, and smash their face open,” one told The Guardian in February 2017. In April, The American Prospect reported that Tesla wages range “from $17 to $21 an hour,” well below industry average. Musk, meanwhile, has a net worth of $21.1 billion.
He owes that sum at least in part to savvy marketing. In true Silicon Valley tradition, he has cast himself as a savior. And it’s entirely possible that the technologies his companies create will help preserve the environment. But Musk’s labor troubles illustrate deeper problems with the Valley’s philosophy. Musk can create all the electric cars and hyperloops he wants, but unless he pairs these efforts with a commitment to fair labor practices, the world he creates won’t be better than the one we have now. It’ll just move at a faster pace.