Elon Musk Plans to Perform the Same Tasks as Tesla's Injured Workforce
Elon Musk has taken some rather extreme measures to ensure Tesla Motors’ employees don’t unionize. The CEO has a rigid production schedule he hopes to adhere to and doesn’t want organized labor throwing unforeseen variables into the mix. However, the UAW has made headway in the last twelve months after half-heartedly courting Tesla’s workforce for years.
Musk’s initial opposition came by way of written rebuttals to very specific criticisms regarding workplace safety and pay. He later accused a particularly aggressive critic of being a paid union stooge. Musk then hinted at the prospect of free frozen yogurt and roller coasters once the company approaches profitability.
Now, he’s apparently decided to reenact the circumstances of specific work-related injuries to prove the company is taking the appropriate safety precautions (or to sniff out areas needing improvement). It’s bizarrely parental but also kind of endearing, if you forget about the union angle.
After a new round of injury-related complaints, Musk issued a letter to employees this week that was shared by a Model 3 owners club and verified by Electrek. Tesla was lambasted after making the claim it possessed the lowest injury rates in the auto industry. While that’s true if you only look at 2017, Occupational Safety and Health Administration data suggests that, if you include the past three years, the company is actually filing injury reports above the industry average. Worksafe released a study in May confirming this.
Musk walking a mile in his employees’ shoes simultaneously shows his commitment to their wellbeing and changes the narrative. As CEO, he could just as easily encourage management to take on this task without him. Doing it himself shows employees he’s on their side. “No words can express how much I care about your safety and wellbeing,” Musk wrote in the letter. “It breaks my heart when someone is injured building cars and trying their best to make Tesla successful.”
“Going forward, I’ve asked that every injury be reported directly to me, without exception. I’m meeting with the safety team every week and would like to meet every injured person as soon as they are well, so that I can understand from them exactly what we need to do to make it better.”
If that is truly his intention, then the man deserves all of the credit in the world for trying to be a good boss. But it’s very difficult to separate this from the union situation and PR damage control stemming from the safety statistics gaffe.
“I will then go down to the production line and perform the same task that they perform,” Musk continued. “This is what all managers at Tesla should do as a matter of course. At Tesla, we lead from the front line, not from some safe and comfortable ivory tower. Managers must always put their team’s safety above their own.”
[Image: Tesla Motors]
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This is nothing more than a dog and pony show. You can't get a real feel for an assembly line or the associated injury doing it a few times. The issue is, these are usually accumulative injuries from repitition over several hundred times per shift and thousands upon thousands of times per week....all while essentially under a stopwatch to maintain production quota. The sad part is the Tesla slappies will see this as a sign that Musk cares about safety of his employees when in reality this is nothing more than a farce.
I spent 5 years in the pit, in chassis final assembly, 9 of us in the pit doing everything from installing gas tanks, to driving body bolts. We all interchanged, and job rotated. (keeps repetitive injuries down). The next 3 years i worked as a utility/spare/relief man. We had to be familiar with every operation from body drop,through engine dress, and front end sheet metal fit. I next spent 10 years as production "group leader/lead hand. My job was to help train new workers. I provided emergency reliefs. My number one assignment was to keep the line running, and chase repairs. I transferred to stamping (more money, less temporary lay offs) I spent 6 years learning every operation, front to back, on 5 different transfer presses. During this period of time, I was taught the basics, of a programable logic computer (PLC). For those that were willing to learn, we were taught the( non skilled trade) aspects of running automated machinery. The knowledge I gained there opened the door to automated material handling. Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGV's) Automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS)...I was taught how to order steel from suppliers. A sweet desk job came up. It involved a semi automated shipping, and receiving dock. I was 43 years old at the time..I wanted that job. Did I mention that this was all accomplished in a UAW/CAW represented plant ? Yes ..seniority rules, However, just because you have the seniority , you still need to be able to perform the job. At the very least you need to be trainable.. Numerous people with more seniority than me, were offered the same opportunities that came my way...For one reason, or another, they didn't want to deal with changes, and sometimes the unknown consequences. Back to the "sweet desk job" I answered the posting. 10 higher seniority in front of me. They all wanted to have a look at this "new" job.. Two PC's on the desk. 4 CCTV screens, a laser printer. I nice swivel chair gave the operator the ability to access the control panel at his back. The control panel looked like the flight deck on a small plane...Some of the 10 guys that were "looking at the job" went as far as sitting in the chair. Others just said "Im too old to learn this. At the time I was covering an absentee in the scheduling office. I was working with mixture of salary, trades, and production guys. They all knew how bad I wanted that job. One of the salary guys, leans back on his chair "Mikey, the Material Handing general wants to talk to you " As walked across the floor I could here them all chanting "go Mikey go'"...The General looks up from his desk.."Michael, you want that dock job ?" Oh yeah !.. I sure do. 12 years later I retired, from that very same job. I think I have a pretty good concept of life on the plant floor. My point.. even in a union shop, if your willing to use your god given brains, and are willing to adapt there is opportunity . Mr Musk is taking the wrong approach. He needs to promote a feeling of empowerment to the assembly line people.. If somebody has a legitimate safety concern , work with the people to correct it. Its expensive, but training more people, to more jobs pays off in the long run. Just because a worker has no post secondary education, doesn't mean their stupid. There is a lot more to a modern vehicle manufacturing facility , then bolting a nut to a hood hinge. Especially today, many people are willing to learn the more complex, and semi skilled jobs...They just need the opportunity. Though it pains me to say it, but its reality . If Mr Musk wants to keep the UAW wolf from his door ?...Take a page from the Honda and Toyota play book. Toyota and Honda pay their workers well. The workers are happy and they reject the UAW advances. The end result equals a quality product. A quality product translates to a happy consumer. I'm rooting for Tesla to succeed...I'm rooting for the guys that have the guts to make a "risky ?? " investment. If we have any here reading this ...I hope you make a fortune : )