At the Guardian, Julie Carrie Wong investigates promises from Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, to meet with injured workers and the impact of his outsized claims and big promises on his employees. Of the Tesla workers who Wong interviewed for the article, six had been injured at work and none had heard from Musk. Tesla provided the newspaper with the names of 10 workers — the Guardian was able to reach four, but none of them had experienced an injury. Wong writes:
When an engineer with extensive experience in the military and private sector went to work for Tesla in 2016, it didn’t take long for him to start to feel uneasy about his new job as a program manager.
“They were trying to drive home that if you want to go work for a company that will give you enough time to do your job, then this isn’t the place,” the engineer, who has since left the company, said of his orientation. “I came from a background where process was a good thing. At Tesla, the time it took to say the word ‘process’ was too long.”
For the engineer and many of the rank and file factory workers, there was a direct link between Musk’s aggressive production projections and their own working conditions. For some employees, like the engineer, the high stress and long hours interfered with having any kind of family life. For others, however, working at Tesla has left them with life-altering injuries.
“Just that one day at Tesla, holy moly it changed my life,” said Mark Vasquez, 40, of the day in 2015 when he permanently injured his back while working at Tesla. He lost his apartment when he was assigned “light duty” work that paid a significantly lower wage, had to sell many of his belongings to make ends meet, and still deals with pain and numbness in his legs.
“I don’t go out,” he said. “I hardly see my friends. It’s depressing to have them see me like this. I can’t walk for 10 minutes without getting winded and having to stop and sit down … When I have to go to the stores, I have to use one of those electric scooter carts, and I don’t want to do that.”
Read the full story at the Guardian.
In other news:
News & Observer: Kevin Keister reports that North Carolina has become the first state to guarantee a $15 minimum wage for most of its state employees, meaning about 9,000 state workers will now get a raise. The new raise, which was included in a state budget bill, applies to most jobs within state agencies and the University of North Carolina system, but excludes temporary workers as well as community college and public school employees, such as bus drivers, custodians and teaching assistants. Union leaders argued that the state would have had $900 million in additional funds to ensure wages kept pace with costs of living if lawmakers hadn’t pushed for tax cuts. Keister writes: “One of the people getting a raise is Sekia Royall, a food services worker at the Cherry Hospital mental facility in Goldsboro. With five years on the job, she makes around $27,300 a year. So for her, the new state budget will mean an extra $3,900 a year. She’s grateful, even if she wishes it were more.”
BBC: In response to the #MeToo movement, Australia is launching a national inquiry into workplace sexual harassment, which is expected to last up to a year and is described as the most comprehensive such inquiry of its kind globally. The goal will be to implement new standards and, potentially, new criminal laws. According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, sexual harassment is a “persistent and pervasive problem in the Australian workforce,” with more than 20 percent of Australians older than 15 reporting that they have experienced sexual harassment on the job. Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins said: “We need to continue working to create a society where this kind of conduct is unthinkable, and where sexual harassment at work is not something people simply have to put up with.”
In These Times: Bruce Vail takes a look behind the increase in workplace deaths in the U.S., citing AFL-CIO numbers showing workplace fatalities up from 4,836 in 2015 to nearly 5,200 in 2016. Advocates commonly cite inadequate enforcement of existing safety rules as a main contributor to the unfortunate rise. Vail interviewed Peter Dooley, a consultant with the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health: “’There is injustice in the Bureau of Labor Statistics as a totally anonymous database. There is no public record of who is dying and who the employers are,’ Dooley says. The information actually does exist deep in the Labor Department files, he adds, but government policy is to keep this information out of public hands, or for use by safety experts. ‘This needs to be changed,’ he says.”
Vox: Alexia Fernández Campbell reports that voters in Washington, D.C., have approved a measure to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour and phase out lower wages for tipped workers. Currently, minimum wage for tipped workers in D.C. is $3.33; but if a worker’s weekly tips don’t add up to meet the local minimum wage of $12.50, employers make up the difference. Under the newly approved measure, the tipped minimum wage will gradually increase by $1.50 each year until it reaches $15 by 2025. Campbell notes that tipped workers in the nation’s capital are now twice as likely to live in poverty and need food assistance as the rest of the city’s workforce. She writes: “The restaurant industry is the top offender of wage theft, according to data from the Department of Labor. In 2017, the agency reported 5,446 cases against the restaurant industry, leading to $42.9 million in back wages for 44,363 workers. That’s twice the number of workers owed money than in the construction industry, which is the second worst offender. …Forcing businesses to pay the same minimum wage to all workers would be one of the easiest solutions to keep those numbers down.”