Elon Musk and Tesla Shouldn’t Be Hailed as Liberal Saviors

In the United States, a strong sentiment exists that society will be saved by technology and technocratic entrepreneurs. Regardless of political alignment, most Americans, if asked, would express some degree of admiration for the man behind SpaceX and Tesla Motors, Elon Musk.

That is, unless you’re someone who has had the misfortune of working for him.

These days, Musk is hailed as our age’s golden child. He’s often referenced in pop culture, frequently graces the cover of major magazines and is no stranger to television interviews.

But the unfortunate reality is that the popular perception of Musk’s intentions is flawed, if not downright incorrect — just take a critical look at the inner workings of his chief enterprise, Tesla Motors.

Musk’s Tesla electric automobiles have been lauded by liberals for their environmental benefits, but this focus overlooks the less pleasant aspects of the company.

The batteries that power these “emission free” vehicles — a somewhat disingenuous conclusion, as U.S. electricity is still largely generated from fossil fuels — come with a serious human cost.

Because Teslas rely on large lithium-ion batteries, a significant amount of cobalt is required for their manufacture. Cobalt is almost exclusively obtained from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where children as young as seven work in deep, dangerous mines to for mere dollars a month. And many often work for an entire day at a time.

Those who avoid death from the frequent mine collapses often develop fatal respiratory diseases.

When that cobalt arrives to the U.S.-based Tesla factory, working conditions may be better than those in Congo’s mines, but they’re far below the standards found in the rest of the auto industry.

Earlier this year, a report on the Tesla plant in Fremont, California, found a severely lacking safety record. And in 2015, it was shown that workers suffered double the incidents of severe injury than that of the industry average; for injuries in general, the rate was 31 percent higher.

And on top of those findings, Tesla employees are frequently overworked — undoubtedly a factor in the high injury rates — and poorly compensated.

According to an editorial penned by Tesla production worker Jose Moran, most employees under him are given “excessive mandatory overtime.” He also claims that the equipment is not well designed and prone to inflicting injury. Moran says most Tesla workers earn just $17 to $21 per hour, compared to the U.S. auto worker average of $25.38 per hour.

In a company-wide email, Musk roundly rejected both Moran’s claims and the reports on Tesla’s dismal safety record.

And for factory workers, the problems don’t end there. Tesla has been the target of three lawsuits that accuse the auto manufacturer of ignoring gross racism directed at its black workers.

The most recent lawsuit claims that both co-workers and supervisors frequently used the n-word when talking to black employees. The filer, Marcus Vaughn, says that not only were his complaints about the use of racial slurs ignored, but that he was also fired for “not having a positive attitude.” What’s unique about this suit, however, is that it’s the first to be a class action.

In an email responding to the first lawsuit, Musk told factory employees that “sometimes these things happen unintentionally” but that targets of racial slurs should be “thick-skinned.”

Even putting all of this aside, it should be little surprise that Musk –  a man who is currently worth $19.5 billion – does not truly have the planet and other people’s interests at heart. After all, his Tesla automobiles, which are supposedly meant to usher in an era of “green” ground transportation, start at over $101,000 – a price point hardly within the reach of anyone outside of the luxury class.

It’s time that Americans realize multi-billionaires did not build their massive wealth through social and global awareness; these are merely people who have mastered the art of exploitation — and, in Musk’s case, the art of image creation as well.

Photo Credit: Heisenberg Media / Wikimedia Commons

59 comments

Colin C
Colin C15 days ago

I never realized this about Tesla and Musk thanks for telling me

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara15 days ago

I don't believe anyone is forced to work for Tesla. Would they rather be down a coal mine?

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara15 days ago

Article I'm sure makes good points but is also a bit daft. The electric and self-driving car is expensive. The power battery for the home is expensive, as is the roof solar glass. Right. So was the Sony Walkman when it appeared. So was the first mobile phone, a brick with huge charging needs. Everything new takes time and effort to develop and it won't be cheap enough to hand to the poor for a while. Stop complaining and decide if you want a cleaner city - and if the current grid is powered by coal or oil, do something about it from your end because we all have to work on this together. Find a solar and wind power provider. Fit that solar panel which has dropped in price and increased in efficiency every year.

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Elaine W
Elaine W16 days ago

Important information noted.

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Celine R
Celine R16 days ago

And even the "green" has it's shady sides. Why? ;_;

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Linda D
Linda D16 days ago

Let's hope Elon gets onto all the problems that are mentioned. As for the children mining cobalt, if you have seen the documentaries it is usually the middle men making the money and a lot of these families have not other choice to work to feed themselves and their families, so something has to be done at the source of cobalt.

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Joan E
Joan E17 days ago

We need better role models.

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Kathryn I
Kathryn I18 days ago

Yet another disgusting creature! Impeach Trump and his equally corrupt cronies, and we Liberals will have saved ourselves!

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Chad A
Chad A19 days ago

Amen.

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Sarah Grayce P
Sarah Grayce P19 days ago

Thanks for posting!
=) =)=)

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