Tesla Giga New York employees have alleged that they routinely faced racism while working at the plant. The problems have reportedly persisted since the facility opened years ago.
Gigafactory New York has been the site of controversy recently after the company terminated a number of employees as part of its regular performance review cycle. Among those who were terminated was an employee who identified as part of an active unionization campaign. A complaint with the US National Labor Relations Board has been filed against the EV maker for allegedly striking back at unionization efforts.
As per a recent report from the Investigative Post, a number of Black employees at Giga New York have also come forward about their alleged experiences on the plant. Seven current and former Tesla employees noted that the racist treatment they received ranged from offensive remarks to them being passed over for promotions regularly.
Among those who were interviewed by the publication, four claimed that they were passed over for promotions at least 20 times when they tried to get a better post at the plant. The employees noted that as production associates, they worked on numerous manufacturing lines, and at times, they ended up supervising the work of other employees. The employees noted that when they attempted to get a promotion, they were generally unsuccessful.
As an example, two Black employees who were assigned to work on a new battery line reportedly performed very well, to the point where they ended up writing an instruction manual on how the line should work. When they approached Human Resources for a potential reward for their work, the men were reportedly denied. After this, one of the men claimed that he was sent to another area of Giga New York to pack boxes.
Eventually, a job was opened for the line that the men knew how to run, so both applied. One was asked to pass an engineering test and sit through an unusually extended interview before getting denied. The other did not even reach the interview stage. It was only after the line was shut down and restarted that one of the men was given a chance to have a more senior position.
“I don’t think there’s a clear structure. Did they even get my application? Did they look at it? Are they not hiring anymore? They don’t tell you anything,” one of the men said.
Five employees also alleged that Giga New York managers had asked groups of Black workers not to speak in groups due to optics. “People will, two or three people, gather and have a conversation. The minute the Black men gather, (management says) ‘Oh, you guys can’t group up like that. You know, it looks like a gang,'” an employee claimed.
The employees alleged that this type of treatment seemed specific to Black workers. This was because other workers of color do not experience the same treatment. This reportedly became particularly uncomfortable following the Tops shooting last May. After the tragedy, some Giga New York workers wanted to attend a vigil during work hours. Management allowed the workers to attend the vigil without pay, but when the workers returned, Giga New York management reportedly assumed that the Black workers were talking about forming a union. Tesla reportedly brought in an official to talk to the plant’s leadership about avoiding a union.
Amidst the allegations, the Giga New York employees did highlight that there are some positive changes in the facility. This included the arrival of a new production manager, Adetope Ogunniyi, who used to work at the company’s Nevada facility. The production manager has reportedly made positive changes, and she has done what she can to ensure that qualified Black employees are granted interviews and promotions. Despite her efforts, however, issues are reportedly still present.
“She’s trying to make changes. But, you know, they’re slow in coming,” one of the workers noted.
The full report on the employees’ allegations against Giga New York can be accessed here.
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