Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk went ahead and opened its Fremont, CA plant this Monday, in spite of the Public Health Department order for Alameda County to close all non-essential businesses in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Musk basically dared the local officials to arrest him.
Elon Musk isn’t to be trusted. In April he predicted that we would be at close to zero cases of COVID-19 by the end of April.
Yesterday in the U.S. there were 1,772 new deaths. The response of tech journalist Paolo Attavissimo to his tweet sounds about right, “With all due respect, this is irresponsible bullshit.”
This arrogant lunatic is putting the lives of autoworkers, their families, and the rest of us at risk: there are 10,000 employees in Fremont when the plant runs at full capacity. Musk plans to start running the assembly line this coming Monday.
Ordinarily, Alameda County Health Department fines people for breaking the shelter in place order $1,000-per-day. Will Musk pay this slap on the wrist? Or use economic blackmail, threatening to move production, if he doesn’t get his way? We have the answer to this: The Alameda County Public Health Department announced on Twitter late Tuesday that the Fremont, California, plant will be able to go beyond basic operations this week and start making vehicles Monday – as long as it delivers on worker safety precautions that it agreed to. Their news release said, “We will be working with the Fremont PD to verify Tesla is adhering to physical distancing and that agreed upon health and safety measures are in place for the safety of their workers as they prepare for full production.” What a joke. What kind of social distancing and cleaning can we expect from a man who believed first that the virus wouldn’t spread, and now that the laws keeping workers at home are “fascist”?
In addition, Musk has threatened employees in his email to them, “Choosing not to report to work may eliminate or reduce your eligibility for unemployment.” He’s also threatened to close his factory if he can’t have his way, “Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately,” Musk warned last week. “If we even retain Fremont manufacturing activity at all, it will be dependen [sic] on how Tesla is treated in the future. Tesla is the last carmaker left in CA.” Truly, Elon Musk is a perfect example of why private ownership of the means of production is a totally backward way to organize production in society.
The conditions in the meat packing industry give us a sense of what kind of horror is to come if workers allow him to go ahead with his plan. Today this industry hit the grim milestone of 10,000 coronavirus cases linked to plants. Donald Trump issued an executive order to the meat industry to keep its plants open in spite of this infection rate, an order that many plants have thankfully not followed.
Elon Musk, like capitalists around the world, are prioritizing their profits. But we don’t need cars to be produced to feed the employees that are forced to stay home. We need housing and food. These can be produced and provided to meet the needs of all. Yes, we are faced with irresponsible bullshit on a daily basis. Workers in this workplaces need to organize to protect themselves from this by refusing to endanger their health, with the support and solidarity of the entire community.
Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons