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Businesses The Almighty Buck

Tesla Factory Workers Reveal Pain, Injury and Stress: 'Everything Feels Like the Future But Us' (theguardian.com) 255

Workers at Tesla's California car factory have been passing out and requiring rides in ambulances, the Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday. The conditions at the factory suggest the lengths the company is going to in order to meet its extremely ambitious production goals, and the tension employees feel between their pride in being part of the company and the stress and exhaustion the company's goals are causing them, according to the report. From the article: Ambulances have been called more than 100 times since 2014 for workers experiencing fainting spells, dizziness, seizures, abnormal breathing and chest pains, according to incident reports obtained by the Guardian. Hundreds more were called for injuries and other medical issues. In a phone interview about the conditions at the factory, which employs about 10,000 workers, the Tesla CEO conceded his workers had been "having a hard time, working long hours, and on hard jobs," but said he cared deeply about their health and wellbeing. His company says its factory safety record has significantly improved over the last year. Musk also said that Tesla should not be compared to major US carmakers and that its market capitalization, now more than $50bn, is unwarranted. "I do believe this market cap is higher than we have any right to deserve," he said, pointing out his company produces just 1% of GM's total output. "We're a money-losing company," Musk added. "This is not some situation where, for example, we are just greedy capitalists who decided to skimp on safety in order to have more profits and dividends and that kind of thing. It's just a question of how much money we lose. And how do we survive? How do we not die and have everyone lose their jobs?" The article also sheds light on the kind of manager Musk is. In early 2016, Musk slept on the factory floor in a sleeping bag "to make it the most painful thing possible. I knew people were having a hard time, working long hours, and on hard jobs. I wanted to work harder than they did, to put even more hours in," he was quoted as saying. "Because that's what I think a manager should do."
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Tesla Factory Workers Reveal Pain, Injury and Stress: 'Everything Feels Like the Future But Us'

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  • Good Thing... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Camel Pilot ( 78781 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @04:04PM (#54444133) Homepage Journal

    Robots don't complain.

  • Duh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sexconker ( 1179573 )

    Overvalued flash in the pan company is running at a loss and grinding its employees to a pulp.

    Tell me a new one.

    • Re:Duh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @06:37PM (#54445357)
      Flash in the pan? They've been around for 13 years. Their products are rolling around all over the US. Compared to "latest instagram clone that is popular with VCs," I wouldn't call them a flash in the pan.

      More important, there's no real connection between startups that are obviously going to go bust and employee abuse. Tesla being new or losing money has nothing to do with it. It's Elon Musk that is the issue. [businessinsider.com] Companies with self-important assholes running shit treat employees like they treat furniture no matter their stage or revenue. I'm guessing Tesla employees are treated better than Amazon employees. [salon.com]
      • i wouldn't say he's an 'issue'.

        It could be worse, some MBA type could be running the company and decide that quarterly profits would be improved greatly if they sold off all their real-estate, production equipment, and instead focused on licensing their patents.

      • Re:Duh (Score:4, Interesting)

        by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @08:02PM (#54445723)

        In terms of auto makers, 13 years is nothing. They've only been hyped up after Steve Jobs died because the media wanted a new Steve Jobs (Elon Musk).

        The reliability of their vehicles isn't too hot. The cost is high, even when sold at a loss. Their entire design policy involves giving users beta cars the involve absurdities like seats being bricked by wonky firmware upgrades. Their mass-market model is delayed endlessly, and if/when it comes out they will not be able to manufacture it in volume.

        They're simply not ready to play with the big boys. I'd compare it to Google thinking they could be an ISP. Yeah, some people are on Google fiber but a lot actually hate it, and Google has abandoned all plans at expansion because they realized they don't have the TRILLIONS it would take to buy all the infrastructure and lobbyists needed to get in on that game nation wide.

        Google did have a positive impact by causing competition in areas they entered. Tesla has had a similar positive impact, with manufacturers clamoring to get a line-up of plug-in electric vehicles that have decent range. I'm glad both of them did what they did (just as I'm glad Apple got manufacturers to care about screen resolution ever since they coined the shitty "retina display" term).

        But as far as being an actual success in the market? Nope. Not unless Elon and investors are willing to ride out another solid decade of pitiful (or even negative) results, battle against the states that make it illegal to sell Teslas (since they have no dealerships), figure out a way to profit from their sales and from their charging network, etc.

        An AC down below called me a hater. I'd love for Tesla to succeed (despite my actual hate for Musk), even if I end up never being interested in their products. They bring competition and (possibly) innovation. I'm not aware of any other consumer electric vehicle with such a practical driving range, for example. I'm just a realist. Established industries are very, very, very hard to break into. Breaking into them by shitting hype and bleeding money rarely works. The establishment can outlast and outlawyer your investors.

        • "They've only been hyped up after Steve Jobs died because the media wanted a new Steve Jobs"

          Musk got "hyped" when SpaceX began successfully launching rockets and the Model S was revealed.

          "The reliability of their vehicles isn't too hot. The cost is high, even when sold at a loss."

          Reliability of the Model S is "average" according to Consumer Reports. Not bad for Tesla's first production car (Roadster was extremely limited). The cost is high, but they're not sold at a loss, unless they're lying in every SEC

      • by Hylandr ( 813770 )

        Flash in the pan is more accurate than you know.

        The American auto industry is 127 years old. For the rest of the world it's roughly 209.

        13 years is nothing compared to that record. Additionaly, rare-earth minerals aren't nearly as abundant as fossile fuels, and cannot be syntesized like fuel alcohol or biofuel can. Without any conservation effort the bottom is going to fall out of the market of batteries for *everything*. That means your cellphone is on a short time on this earth also.

        Everyone drones on abo

      • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @12:42AM (#54446689) Homepage Journal

        look. 13 years of loss. 50 bn market cap.

        that is the zenith of overvalued.

        at least musk is admitting that it's overvalued and making a loss :D. unlike his last years book shenigans.

  • Musk is an idiot (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jimmifett ( 2434568 )

    Instead of sleeping on the factory floor to show solidarity, perhaps he should have spent his time better analyzing production lines for improvement. A good manager doesn't work harder, a good manager works smarter. Add a person here, add a person there, lighten the individual load. Cross train and move multidiscipline employees to various stations based on demand, then move elsewhere when demand lowers.

    On top of all that, his vehicles are shit, but that's another story altogether.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gfxguy ( 98788 )

      I'm sure Elon Musk is now sitting on a pile of money in his mansion crying over your insult.

      Elon Musk is not an idiot. Maybe the people that bought his cars are; maybe the people overvaluing his company are... but you will have to do a lot better than that to convince me that he is.

      • by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @05:52PM (#54445093)
        It's pretty easy to sleep on a factory floor for the night when you can make up for it by sleeping in your yacht in the Bahamas the next night. There are probably a lot better ways he could have made the point. It's things like this that make me think Musk is really out of touch.
        • by haruchai ( 17472 )

          It's pretty easy to sleep on a factory floor for the night when you can make up for it by sleeping in your yacht in the Bahamas the next night. There are probably a lot better ways he could have made the point. It's things like this that make me think Musk is really out of touch.

          You confusing him with Richard Branson. Musk has 5 young boys. Sleeping on the factory floor is probably no more stressful than trying to get a good night's sleep at home.

    • by Jzanu ( 668651 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @04:11PM (#54444225)
      Exactly! Musk is running a sweatshop with propaganda that the Soviet's would approve of! Oh yes, he has done a PR gesture of sleeping in a bag on the floor, where he has people doing real work at a pace communicated through hierarchy from him, all while he is at best in the way. The proper response is to isolate the causes of these medical issues from the work, redesign the jobs to limit occupational exposures (that's the law in most places, although the US acts otherwise), and employ more people (reducing profit margins) to ensure better quality outcomes
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Aighearach ( 97333 )

      Instead of sleeping on the factory floor to show solidarity, perhaps he should have spent his time better analyzing production lines for improvement. A good manager doesn't work harder, a good manager works smarter.

      Add a person here, add a person there, lighten the individual load. Cross train and move multidiscipline employees to various stations based on demand, then move elsewhere when demand lowers.

      A good manager is seen by employees working harder than those employees. If you question that, you're probably aliterate.

      Are there other things that are also important? Of course. It has been widely reported that improvements in the production line are one of the things that Tesla is doing that differently than other automakers, because a lot more engineering work has gone into the cars themselves than the factories. Duh. Read moar peas.

      On top of all that, his vehicles are shit, but that's another story altogether.

      The vehicles get high ratings from people who actually own them.

    • And you're a genius, right?
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Instead of sleeping on the factory floor to show solidarity, perhaps he should have spent his time better analyzing production lines for improvement. A good manager doesn't work harder, a good manager works smarter.

      It's not about working smarter, it's about recognizing the hardships your employees go through, even if you as a manager can't do much short term because of the mythical man-month problem. Sometimes it's just crunch time and it's not very motivational when your boss goes home early while you're pulling an all-nighter.

  • by grungeman ( 590547 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @04:08PM (#54444177)
    ...for similarily priced cars the workers seem to be doing fine (although there seem to be only a few left): https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
  • ...Elon Musk, Bill gates...

    If you want to perform for these guys, you gotta give it all. Sometimes - that price is just too high.

  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @04:10PM (#54444203)

    Let's call it 120 time. In 3.5 years for 10,000 workers.

    How far is that from the normal number of times that people in a modest sized city will call for ambulances?

    • by Jzanu ( 668651 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @04:16PM (#54444275)
      Read that again. 200 times for dizziness and nausia, etc. those things typically coming from environmental exposure to toxins and poorly ventilated chemical vapors. Hundreds more for physical medical problems coming from manufacturing work. If you are to compare numbers on a population and activity basis, make sure you understand what they include first. Compare that number not just to civil population in various work, but to the industry cohort. That's what courts do to find managerial negligence, and may be required here.
      • by Nutria ( 679911 )

        10^348 is larger than 100, but when people read "more than 100", it's designed to make people think "a little more than 100". If The Guardian meant 500, they should have written it.

        That's still a rate of 0.017 ambulance calls per worker per year, which isn't much, compared to how many times that ambulances get called in cities of 10,000.

        Did TFA compare that to GM, Ford & Chrysler?

        • My company HQ with around 1700 people has around one ambulance call per year, and that is all desk jobs.
      • If you can find numbers that specific please do provide them. In my experience it is hard to get public numbers that specific; managers that need those numbers pay consultants for them!

      • by Altus ( 1034 )

        My guess from the descriptions is that most of these people were suffering panic attacks... thats a lot of panic attacks for a workplace.

    • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @04:22PM (#54444329)

      Well, we've had ambulances called to the office complex that I work from probably three times in the last year. If I look at the map of the parking lot there are about 400 numbered parking spaces, so assuming that some workers carpool or use some other form of transportation I'd guess there are around 450 employees.

      So, for my workplace for one year is 3/450 = .667%

      By contrast Tesla's workplace with your numbers is (120/3.5)/10000 = .343%

    • I couldn't get numbers just on workers, but I did find that in 2009 there were 28,004,624 medical transports resulting from 911 calls. Population that year was 306,800,000. That's one medical transport per year per 11 people.

      120 transports in 3.5 years for 10,000 people is one transport per 23 people.

      While workers are more healthy than the average person, they're also a lot more likely to accept a medical transport for things like dizziness where a person at home would likely just stop painting for the day

  • by stomv ( 80392 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @04:11PM (#54444211) Homepage
    It's no wonder that California Tesla employees are considering joining the UAW [bloomberg.com]. If you don't treat your employees right one at a time, they're going to ask that you do so all at once.
    • by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @04:50PM (#54444603) Homepage

      Explains the timing of the story, especially considering that the number of ambulance transports is less than half the rate from the general population. Factory workers are healthier than the average person, but the job is also more dangerous than average. It would take a lot of additional numbers to show it being high. But it sounds like it must be high if they bothered to quote it in a story!

      In my workplace experiences, the places with good worker treatment had more people advocating to join a union than the ones that treated their workers shitty. For various reasons, many of which are obvious, like that people who value being respected by their employers already quit the shitty jobs at a higher rate.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Solandri ( 704621 )
      Way to compare to a nonexistent zero state. 100 ambulance calls in 3.4 years for 10,000 employees is an incident rate of 2.9 per 1000 people per year.

      The hospitalization rate for people aged 18-44 [ahrq.gov] is 78.9 per 1000. The rate for people aged 45-65 is 108.8 per 1000. So the rate for ages 18-65 is 2 / (1/78.9 + 1/108.8) = 91.5 per 1000.

      Basically you're advocating that Tesla employees should unionize because Tesla is mistreating them by keeping them 30x healthier at work than they are at home.
      • by boa ( 96754 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @05:12PM (#54444791)

        "...Tesla is mistreating them by keeping them 30x healthier at work than they are at home."

        -1.
        Bad math, since you don't include the numbers for Tesla employees calling 911 from home, or otherwise get hospitalized outside working hours..

        • by harlequinn ( 909271 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @11:57PM (#54446547)

          The full population rate includes the Tesla employees. The only at Tesla rate does not. But you would need to establish a link between their callouts from home and their work at Tesla for that to be useful information e.g. as a condition caused by their work.

          But lets extrapolate. Lets say that they call the amulance at home at the same rate they do at work (unlikely since they aren't working anymore and have been removed from the alleged source of their morbidity). From an 8 hour work day we can triple the amount of callouts to 300 and keep the population the same at 10000. So now we're at 8.8 per 1000 people per year. That's still 10x better than the general population.

  • Long Hours (Score:5, Interesting)

    by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @04:12PM (#54444229)

    I worked in an Aircraft Depot for the F15 Fighter as a civilian. Many times during periods like the Gulf Wars we would often work 12 hour shifts 7 days a week. They usually tried to limit that to 2 or 3 weeks because eventually it took a toll on people. After two weeks it's like time starts to blur. You make more mistakes and people get very stressed. Several times people almost came to blows on the job. I remember one guy walking down the back of a fighter and he stepped over an air duct and almost went off the side to the concrete floor. I watched helpless as another guy reached up and grabbed his shirt and snatched him back. We all felt energized by the emergency and the overtime was great but I was glad for some time off. Damn I wish I was 30 again. 100 degree summer heat in a hanger climbing over and inside jets. It would kill me now.

    • by Nutria ( 679911 )

      How many seizures did that overwork cause?

      • One guy ALMOST fell off of a plane.
        • by Nutria ( 679911 )

          That's not what I asked.

          • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @04:45PM (#54444549) Homepage Journal
            A plane!
            • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

              I had a T-shirt that said F15s were fighter aircraft and everything else was just a target.

          • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

            They just did it as an emergency effort to get some aircraft that were near completion of modifications back to their units. After that we scaled back. If it had continued I'm pretty sure there would have been some really bad stuff. Working around a weapon system that has 3000 psi hydraulics and lots of moving parts to be operational checked. I actually saw one worker get caught in a landing gear door once during a period of long hours. They couldn't get the door to close and she noticed that a connector wa

        • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

          Yep, they didn't have fall protection around them back in the 90s. Osha came in after 2000 and started wearing them out. Lots of changes.

      • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

        We had a few guys get heat stroke. One of the older guys had a heart attack and had to be hauled out in an ambulance. Several accidents with injuries and lots of close calls. Working that hard for that many hours will cause mistakes.

  • People don't want cars that take hours to refill. Stopping for gas is a pain in the ass, and it's quick. It's why hybrid gas sell better. How about swappable batteries standardized for all cars? These folks are sweating for something that won't fly.
    • It seems like the range on the cars is such that in most cases, people can charge their cars when they get home from work. And for long trips, where it might take an hour to charge the battery every 200 to 300 miles, I personally wouldn't mind stopping for an hour, grabbing a bite to eat, and relaxing.
    • theshowmecanuck doesn't want cars that take minutes to refill.

      FTFY.

      You are showing your own ignorance and biases about EVs. Nothing more.

      Stopping for gas is a pain in the ass, and it's quick

      Plugging your car in at home and allowing it to charge overnight avoids all those annoying trips to the gas station.

      • No, you are showing your ignorance what is wanted in the real world. Recharging a car in under 15 minutes is what is wanted, and there are fast charging systems being developed that can do that. No one wants to wait for more than an hour when taking a long trip or driving more than 200 miles in a day to recharge.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by whoever57 ( 658626 )

          No, you are showing your ignorance what is wanted in the real world.

          So my driveway isn't "the real world"? When I park my electric vehicle and charge it overnight, does it transport itself to an alternative universe? Another reality?

          I live with an electric vehicle. I suspect I know a lot more than you do about what's realistic.

          Those long trips? They are the exception and, as you pointed out, even faster charging is coming soon.

          Today, if you have a Tesla, you probably only need to wait about 30 minutes, and

          • by Rei ( 128717 )

            Not only "probably need a break", but should take a break (whether they "need" one or not). Long periods of driving without breaks are not safe. Your attention begins to wane. There's a reason why truck drivers are mandated to take periodic breaks.

            If everyone had to stop for half an hour or so every several hundred kilometers, the highways would be a lot safer place; it's almost unfortunate that ranges keep improving, in that regard ;). But most people prefer to push themselves rather than stop.

    • The vast majority of the time I'm driving short trips like to or from work. I can rent a gas car for any longer trips. I don't think the average driver is any different. Hybrid cars sell better since charging stations aren't common.
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      People don't want cars that take hours to refill. Stopping for gas is a pain in the ass, and it's quick. It's why hybrid gas sell better. How about swappable batteries standardized for all cars? These folks are sweating for something that won't fly.

      Most cars don't actually go very far very often, I'd say almost every destination I go to by car is within ~100 miles. If it's further then it's often much further and I'd rather fly and use a taxi/rental. If you're drive long distances regularly then it's simply not the car for you. The problem with EVs is that when you're out of range and out of fast charging options you're really stuck. So what you mainly need are more charging stations so the worst that'll happen is a top-up at a 50+ kWh charging statio

      • Even if you only go on one 500 to 1000 km trip a year you are screwed because you will spend so much of your time charging. I do a 500 km trip every couple of months (close to 1000 km round trip). And usually I am doing it over a long weekend. I can't afford a couple of hours to recharge in the middle. In Canada many people do trips like that on a long weekend. In the comments here I see a lot of people who only want to look at the 'normal' use case. Life has a lot of edge cases. If people here really code
  • another skill that's also part talent. Only in this case the talent portion seems to be taken up with the ability for public performance and not so much with the ability to manage.

    Look, common suffering only goes so far when you don't do anything to alleviate the conditions which lead to the suffering. So sleeping on the concrete is easily seen as nothing but a show for the workers not solidarity with them. Solidarity with them would to open examine why they're having to work so many extra hours and to find

    • Solidarity with them would to open examine why they're having to work so many extra hours and to find some way to reduce them

      Solidarity demonstrates that if there was a way to get himself off of the concrete floor he would be doing that thing. Solidarity is like dog-fooding your software, it means you have a vested interest in making it work because it's not an abstract problem, it's a problem you yourself face.

  • by mi ( 197448 ) <slashdot-2016q1@virtual-estates.net> on Thursday May 18, 2017 @04:47PM (#54444579) Homepage Journal

    For a few years I was annoyed about the uniform adoration Mr. Musk was getting on Slashdot and in other circles. Then hit-pieces like this one started appearing...

    Would the insufferable conditions described in TFA have been described at all — or described using the same terms — if he were still the Progressives' darling for championing "green" causes?

    Or has the tone switched [theatlantic.com], because Musk is a Trump-administration supporter (sort of [theverge.com]) — and there is a well-organized smear and boycott [bloomberg.com] campaign against him as a result?

    There is a lively discussion on whether or not Musk is a "Trump enabler" [nique.net] — but people, who've already concluded, that he is, will stop at, literally, nothing. Even poisoning the "haters" is becoming a thing [frontpagemag.com] — online smears are child's play...

  • No doubt there will be plenty of comments about "stopping for an hour to charge on a long trip is OK" I could be wrong, but I suspect these may come from European posters. "Long trip" doesn't have quite the same meaning here. I can drive from Dallas to El Paso in about 9 hours with no stops and STILL be in Texas. That's Paris to Berlin distance (640 miles or so). In reality, there will be bathroom breaks, at least one meal, so add another 2 hours. Now, add two hours for recharge stops, assuming you ca
    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @05:48PM (#54445071) Homepage

      In reality, there will be bathroom breaks, at least one meal, so add another 2 hours. Now, add two hours for recharge stops

      Huh?

      So your conception is that you would drive for 9 hours and have two hours of stops.... but you would leave your vehicle unplugged during those stops? And then make two hours of charging stops, charging that you could have done during your already planned stop time?

      The thing that makes your conception especially puzzling to me is that people already combine "recharging" and break / meal stops when driving gasoline cars. If they pull off the highway to get a meal, they'll also tend to fill up, or vice versa, since they've already had to take an exit, drive into the nearest town, and stop. The only difference with an EV is that you leave the vehicle connected to the "pump" while you're eating.

      • Where are these chargers? I can't just whip out a bright orange extension cord and plug into any restaurant outlet. Now, I have to hope that anywhere along my route offers charging AND that they serve food. The infrastructure is not ready. Period. My main point is that the US has large swaths of relatively empty land where high volumes of traffic pass but where just finding gas is sometimes difficult because of the isolated area. You can forget about charging when you have signs that say "next gas 100
        • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @07:09PM (#54445513) Homepage

          Where are these chargers?

          Please tell me you know how to use Google. [tesla.com] They're every ~100mi / 150km on almost every interstate in the US (more in more densely populated areas), and this is before the big planned expansion.

          Now, I have to hope that anywhere along my route offers charging AND that they serve food

          Where do you think that chargers are - in the middle of the woods? They're at highway exits, the same sorts of places you find gas stations and restaurants. Generally in the larger cities along the route, where such cities are present.

          Click on any charger on the above map. It'll tell you what restaurants (and other things) are around the charger.

          The infrastructure is not ready. Period.

          Learn to use Google. Period.

          Unless you're looking for a vehicle for, say, a trip deep into Canyonlands or the like, it's not a problem. If you're a normal human being who takes interstates to near their destination and then travels less than a couple hundred kilometers off of their turnoff to their destination, there is no problem.

    • In reality, there will be bathroom breaks, at least one meal, so add another 2 hours. Now, add two hours for recharge stops...

      No. You're doing it wrong. The meal happens while you're charging. Especially since the Supercharger station is going to be literally next door to a restaurant. (It is in my town, right next to the interstate.) If you've got a family, bathroom breaks take 20 minutes easily, so again, stop at a Supercharger and plug in. 20 minutes from a Supercharger is quite a lot of energy. Do that twice in the day, on either side of lunch, and you're good. You're in El Paso, and probably still have a 30% charge.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Now, it is a problem because the infrastructure just isn't there. Eventually, even the long charge times become less important since you will charge while you are in the bathroom or eating.

      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        How closely spaced do chargers need to be before you'll admit that the infrastructure is "there"?

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