Tesla is facing fresh allegations of workers’ rights violations, as construction workers who contributed to the building of the automaker’s gigafactory in Austin, Texas, come forward to make serious allegations against the company.
One worker, who asked to only be identified by his first name, Victor, recalled to The Guardian that he told his wife “I’m going to die in this factory,” after, he claims, he and his colleagues were asked to work on a flooded production floor with live wires and cords in the water.
He also alleged that one of his colleagues was so desperate for money that he returned to work with a brace after breaking his arm on the site. He further claims that his team was directed to work on the metal factory roof at night with no lights, on top of turbines that were blowing smoke despite not having protective masks, and more.
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“Every day, there was a safety issue,” he said. According to a complaint that Victor is filing with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Osha), those were circumstances facilitated by employers who allegedly faked certificates of completion for required training that he says he never received. These trainings would have educated workers about safety and workers’ rights, including the right to refuse dangerous work.
Other workers from the site, meanwhile, allege that they never received the double pay bonuses they were promised for working on Thanksgiving last year. Advocates, such as Hannah Alexander, an attorney for the Workers Defense Project, say that companies like Tesla are the ones with the power to demand fair working standards in a fractured industry like construction.
“Tesla was not—didn’t seem—interested in using their power to ensure that everyone was able to go home at the end of the day without injuries, with all the money that they’re owed in their pockets,” said Alexander.
This is not, however, the first time that Tesla has been associated with dangerous or unfair working conditions. Its plant in Fremont, California, has been beset by accusations of racism and has racked up Osha violations faster than other major U.S. auto plants.
The company also faced accusations of subjecting workers building its plant near Berlin, Germany, to unsafe working conditions and not paying them enough. As to the Austin plant, Victor said he believed the conditions at the production facility that will soon make the Cybertruck were inhumane.
“Nobody deserves what happened in the gigafactory to happen to them, or their family members, or whomever,” he said. “Everybody’s at fault. Anybody could have prevented it. Tesla could have prevented it.”