Tesla workers describe factory precautions as Musk, officials fight

Tesla Inc. vehicles are parked at the company’s assembly plant in Fremont, California, the United States, Monday, May 11, 2020.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Tesla workers returned to work this week at the company’s auto plant in Fremont, California, as CEO Elon Musk reopened the facility in defiance of local Covid-19-backed health orders. expressions of support from President Donald Trump and others.

According to internal correspondence, some production lines were operating slower than usual. But at least some changes worked on Sunday, and models 3, Y, S and X were all produced at Tesla this week Tuesday. Workers also described measures such as shift schedules and surgical masks to help stem the spread of Covid-19, and said that Musk appeared on the ground and worked part of a shift Monday.

Meanwhile, local health officials in Alameda County, where the factory is located, are not backing down. On Monday, they sent a letter to Tesla ordering the company to retreat to the minimum basic operations of the plant.

Among other things, the county wants Tesla to create a better plan to screen workers for Covid-19. Tesla employees travel to and from the facility from Fremont and beyond, including shuttles and public transportation.

Scott Haggerty, Alameda County District Supervisor, said press interviews that the county and the district of Fremont had previously developed a plan to allow Tesla to reopen completely by May 18. Musk was not satisfied and wanted to resume vehicle production earlier.

California governor Gavin Newsom said at a press conference on Monday that he was a long-time supporter and supporter of the company and one of the first to adopt its technology. “I have great expectations that we can solve the problem with this county and this company at the county level in the coming days.”

Musk in the factory on Monday

Three Fremont employees told CNBC that when they returned to the factory for their shifts, their temperatures were raised at the entrance and they received surgical masks. Social distancing was possible at the entrance to the factory, but became impossible during the production of the vehicles, they all said. They also said that hand sanitizer dispensers had been installed throughout the establishment.

Normally, they say, they wear personal protective equipment, including hard-toed boots, glasses or goggles, and ear plugs. Surgical masks were the only addition of PPE to protect them from the virus.

These employees asked not to be named because they were not allowed to discuss the business of the company with the press.

Employee break times have been scheduled and staggered so that people do not rush in the bathrooms and dining rooms at the same time, according to a published schedule shared with CNBC.

Musk personally thanked those who returned to work in an email early Tuesday. He wrote: “An honest day spent building products or providing useful services to others is extremely honorable. I have a lot more respect for someone who takes pride in doing a good job, whatever profession, that of a rich or famous person who does it. nothing useful. “

Two employees said they heard that the CEO of Mercurial had worked a shift on a Model 3 production line inside the sprawling facility, rather than in tent structures where Models 3 and Y are built using a more manual process. One of them claimed to have seen him in the establishment.

Workers expressed concern about the possibility of contracting Covid-19 in the midst of the crowd at the factory. They said that, as much as they could estimate, everyone except the contractors had been called back to their shift. An employee has said that he wants Musk not to try to behave like one of the basic factory workers and that he will stop tweeting and causing distraction.

Tesla did not respond to requests for comment.

Supervisor Haggerty was unavailable for an interview on Tuesday and declined to comment on how Fremont planned to respond to Tesla. His chief of staff, Shawn Wilson, told CNBC correspondence had been sent by Tesla to the county overnight, and that Dr. Erica Pan, Acting Public Health Officer for Alameda County, and his staff l would consider Tuesday.

Earlier, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office told CNBC that it was up to the Fremont Police Service to enforce health orders. The Fremont Police Service did not respond to several requests for comment.

Monday’s letter from government officials ordering Tesla to return to minimum basic operations is here:

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