Elon Musk has reopened the Tesla factory in Fremont, California and has withdrawn from local public health officials who refused to allow the company to resume production. After previously questioning the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic, threatening to move Tesla’s California headquarters, and even filing a federal lawsuit, Musk has now volunteered to be the first to be arrested for ignoring of the province’s order, although that remains to be done.
“I will be on the phone with everyone,” said Tesla’s CEO tweeted on Monday afternoon. “If someone is arrested, I ask that I be alone.”
On Monday, a local Alameda official wrote to Tesla that the company should shut down production outside of its basic minimum operations, the company said. San Francisco Chronicle. But that doesn’t seem to have stopped the company’s work. Local news footage showed activity at the Tesla factory in Fremont not long after Musk’s tweets. An employee even told Chronicle that work had resumed earlier. And in an email from the GuardianTesla employees were told that if they choose not to return to work, they risk losing their unemployment benefits.
Tesla did not respond to Recode’s request for comment in time for publication.
This situation does not bode well for various parties involved. How local officials who claim to be quiet negotiate with Tesla how to reopen safely will ultimately reveal how much power they really have in enforcing social distance and at-home measures. After all, getting Tesla away unscathed can set a worrying precedent for local officials who need to curtail against influential companies eager to resume production and manufacturing.
Many people have been found violating the rules imposed by the pandemic, and some – disproportionately black and brown people – have been arrested.
But Musk is quite literal one of the richest men in the world and, thanks in part to his avid fan base, he seems to believe that Tesla will not be punished despite the order. In fact, he has already warned that production currently running in Fremont could potentially be moved to another location. After encouraging his supporters to campaign on behalf of Tesla, Musk led leaders in other states, including the governor of Texas, began to encourage Musk to relocate operations.
Given that Tesla employs about 10,000 people at its Fremont plant, California would undoubtedly prefer to keep those jobs in the state. And Musk has already picked up another notable support. Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump declared in a tweet that the state should allow Tesla to immediately open the factory and add, “It can be done quickly and safely!”
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Steve Mnuchin said CNBC on Monday, “He is one of the largest employers and manufacturers in California and California should prioritize everything they need to do to address those health concerns so that they can open quickly and safely.”
Tesla isn’t the only company that likes to push against local officials and get back to work, although it’s the most talked about company to do so. There have been at least two meat packaging plants pushed to open again, in spite of the concerns and warnings from local officials. But that should be very worrying if we trust our local government officials to set the benchmarks and enforce public health rules to get back to work safely.
What’s behind the battle to open the Tesla factory in Fremont
The Fremont plant in Alameda County is the mainstay of Tesla’s U.S. operations, but the plant has been closed since March 23. The factory’s initial shutdown, like its reopening, was controversial. It all started 10 days after this March 6 tweet:
The panic of the corona virus is stupid
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 6, 2020
Alameda County was released on March 16 its shelter-in-place order. That evening, Musk told staff in an internal email, “If you feel a little sick or even uncomfortable, don’t feel obliged to come to work.” He added, “I will be working personally, but that’s just me. Completely OK if for some reason you want to stay at home. ‘
The next day the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department said in a tweet that Tesla was not considered an “essential business”, but “could maintain the basic minimal operations”. According to the order of the province, this included “the minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of the company’s inventory, ensure security, process payroll, and employee benefits.” Tesla responded to that saying it would reduce the workforce to 2,500, and on March 18, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler announced the closure of their factories. Tesla followed suit one day later on March 19, which, incidentally, was the same day that Musk started tweeting about making fans.
Almost two months later, California Governor Gavin Newsom released new guidance for the return of production to the state. It appears that Tesla interpreted this as permission to return to work. In a blog posted over the weekend, the company said it planned to restart operations with some notable adjustments, and also said that people would work shifts so only 30 percent of the staff would be present at the same time. But California has also maintained that local governments can enforce stricter measures than those proposed by the state as a whole. Alameda County decided to do just that and has so far refused to allow Tesla to resume operations at its Fremont plant.
In answer, Tesla has sued Alameda County on May 9, arguing that it had the right to open and that the county’s rules contradicted national policies. Musk announced the lawsuit on Twitter, where he also threatened to move the California Tesla factory:
Frankly, this is the last straw. Tesla will now immediately move its headquarters and future programs to Texas / Nevada. If we maintain Fremont’s manufacturing activity at all, in the future it will depend on how Tesla is treated. Tesla is the last automaker left in CA.
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 9, 2020
This brings us on May 11, when Tesla reopened the Fremont plant. The Alameda County Sheriff claims that Tesla has not received the blessing from the county to resume production, and despite negotiations, the department said there must be an “approved plan” to resume production, according to a statement after the factory reopened anyway.
Despite Musk’s offer to be the first, there doesn’t seem to be any reports of workers being arrested.
Elon Musk hardly seems to want to work with local leaders
But let’s not forget how much Elon Musk has rocked in his statements about the coronavirus pandemic. As mentioned above, Musk tweeted in March that panic about the disease “stupid, “And shortly afterwards he said that both” virality “and” death rate “were associated with Covid-19”overdone. “Later that month, the billionaire wrongly predicted that”almost zero new cases“Late April, and he falsely claimed,”Children are essentially immune.“
Musk has a clear financial interest in resuming normal business, and he has pushed hard for it. After criticizing the idea of ”forced isolation, “Musk applauded the reopening of Texas, to write factories should be “reopened with care and adequate protection, but not that everyone should be de facto under house arrest”. During a Tesla profit call, he also mentioned Covid-19 social distance orders “fascist. ‘
According to Musk, it is apparently unfair that local and state governments have allowed certain types of production to be reopened in California and the rest of the country. Tesla, he and many of his supporters seem to believe, is the victim of an uneven approach to resume production.
Government Newsom, meanwhile, remained relatively soft about the Tesla controversy. After confirming that places do right to reopen at their own pace, the Governor of California described himself at a news conference on Monday as “a strong supporter, supporter and early adopter” of Tesla technology and said he expected the company, in negotiations with Alameda County, to open next week. In fact, the Tesla factory had already reopened, and when a reporter asked for a photo with a full parking lot at the Fremont site that morning, Newsom said, “When I walked to the podium this morning, it wasn’t. ‘
There are indications that other government officials also wanted to negotiate with Telsa. Days before Musk’s challenging decision, Fremont mayor Lily Mei seemed to spur the idea of re-opening Tesla. “We know that many essential companies have proven to operate successfully with strict safety and social distance practices,” she said on May 9 pronunciation Tesla calls that specific. “I strongly believe that the same practices are possible for other manufacturing companies, especially those that are so crucial to our jobs.”
But as California officials discuss the best way to deal with the factory situation in Fremont, other states are responding to Musk’s threat to move Tesla’s California headquarters. Texas leaders, inclusive Rep. Dan Crenshaw and Governor Greg Abbott, seems interested in welcoming the company to Texas and the mayor of Las Vegas Musk wrote a letter encourage a move to Nevada.
Reopening factories will be a messy process nationwide
Musk’s complaint It is not incorrect that other American car factories are given the green light to reopen. However, these factories are located in other states. Toyota has restarted operations in several factories, including one in San Antonio, Texas. Michigan also allows production operations to resume on May 18, which will open production for the Big Three American car giants.
The Trump administration has made it clear that decisions are about reopening local businesses to the state and local governments. As government officials have repeatedly made clear, the reopening of the country will not be a unified process, and production facilities in areas less affected by the Covid-19 pandemic will inevitably gain an edge over their competitors. We also know that reopening factories, in particular, carries the risk of new outbreaks. U.S. meat packing plants have become hot spots for Covid-19 cases, in part because workers are close together.
Despite these and other concerns, Tesla decided to violate the local public health guidelines and return its workers to the factory. In a recently released “Back to workPlaybook, Tesla explains new measures for workers returning to work, including temperature and symptom checks, contactless surfaces, and plenty of protective equipment, some of which will be the responsibility of workers to acquire. The extent to which such measures are effective in protect workers is debatable.