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Workers Accuse Tesla of Coronavirus Cover Up

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla (Photo: Daniel Oberhaus, 2018)

“This is a dire health and safety emergency because the state is not taking care of workers at Tesla” 

Tesla employees and members of a workers’ rights group accused car company Tesla of a coronavirus cover up, with over 30 employees testing positive at Tesla’s Fremont plant. According to Courthouse News, Tesla employees Carlos Gabriel and Steve Zeltzer protested in front of the Alameda County Health Department.

The employees allege Tesla is conducting their own private contact tracing for employees, and Tesla said all thirty cases were contracted outside of work. But, Gabriel and Zeltzer believe Tesla is hiding information from workers and putting employees at risk.

The news comes on the same day as Tesla stock prices soared after strong production and sales numbers compared to competitors. In early May, Tesla CEO Elon Musk publicly feuded with local health officials over the continued closure of Tesla car plants.

Musk said of a proposed closure until June 1, “the unelected & ignorant “Interim Health Officer” of Alameda is acting contrary to the Governor, the President, our Constitutional freedoms & just plain common sense!”

Currently, Alameda County, home of a Tesla production plant, is experiencing a spike in coronavirus cases, seeing a daily average case increase from 44 to 107 a day.

Worker Safety

At the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, cases spiked in factories related to essential services such as agriculture and meatpacking. Mexico’s coronavirus crisis was also fueled by factory workers contracting the virus in industries deemed essential.

The protesting Tesla workers are demanding public health officers to investigate the Tesla plant in Fremont and determine if the company is hiding the true number of cases and their origin. The demonstrators also want an expansion in OSHA workers to ensure better worker safety during the pandemic.

“This is a dire health and safety emergency because the state is not taking care of workers at Tesla,” Zeltzer told Courthouse News.

Musk has repeatedly downplayed the threat of the virus on Twitter and threatened to move Tesla’s production facilities to Texas if the Fremont plant was not allowed to reopen.

Pssst, while you're here...

Despite reopening the Fremont plant early against public health advice on May 11, Tesla and Musk faced no penalty. President Donald Trump tweeted support for Musk’s decision to reopen the production plant.

With coronavirus once again spiking in California and multiple states, workers face increased risk of exposure to the virus and localized closures will be seen as the death toll to the virus creeps back up to peak levels.

Coronavirus Cover Ups?

Tesla is not the only company to face increasing coronavirus cases and scrutiny for their handling of a return to work.

Amazon has also been accused of covering up the number of coronavirus cases in its extensive network of warehouses. The tech giant said its data regarding employees and the virus were not very useful and mirrored the general public. But, an internal memo revealed that a study of one warehouse detailed a much higher infection rate than would be expected in the general public.

The extensive study broke down one warehouse based on department and employee country residence, and as of May 18 the warehouse in Shakopee, Minnesota had an infection rate 17 times higher than the general public in the same county.

Internationally, Amazon warehouse workers went on strike in Germany after more than 30 employees tested positive for coronavirus. At the outset of Europe’s coronavirus lockdown, Amazon employees also went on strike in France, Italy, Spain, and Poland over unsafe working conditions related to coronavirus.

Amazon worker strikes have also taken place in the United States, and Amazon has been accused of and is under investigation for retaliating against workers for speaking out against unsafe working conditions.

Much like Tesla, Amazon and other large companies have been reluctant to share detailed information about coronavirus in their companies, only fueling accusations that big business is facilitating a coronavirus cover up to benefit their bottom line.

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Alec Pronk

Alec is a freelance writer with an interest in both geopolitics and American domestic issues. He finished his Master's degree with a critical focus on government counterterrorism policies.

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