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Tesla’s defense of workers’ safety triggers fiery Twitter rebuttal from Reveal

Tesla’s blog post calling out Reveal of intentionally painting a false picture of the company’s safety policies has triggered a fiery Twitter response from the publication on Tuesday. In an extensive article, Reveal alleged that the electric car maker is neglecting workers safety and intentionally mislabeling some of its employees’ injuries to make its facilities appear safer.

Citing former employees of the company and an executive from Worksafe, an organization that has clashed with Tesla in the past, Reveal‘s article suggested that the Elon Musk-led company is operating its facilities in a dangerous, haphazard fashion. According to the publication, much of the dangers that workers face could be blamed on management, especially CEO Elon Musk. The report claimed, for example, that Musk and Tesla’s management allowed the factory floor to have very little hazard markings for dangerous areas because “Elon does not like the color yellow.”

The Reveal article prompted a response from Tesla, which denied the allegations in the report. The Elon Musk-led company went a step further as well, stating that the piece was an “ideologically motivated attack by an extremist organization working directly with union supporters to create a calculated disinformation campaign against Tesla.”

Reveal did not take Tesla’s defense lying down. In a series of tweets on Tuesday, the publication reaffirmed the accuracy of its report. The two reporters who wrote the article have also announced that they will be doing a Reddit AMA to answer questions about their investigation into the electric car maker. Reveal’s tweetstorm could be accessed here, though we have compiled them for easier reading below.

So before yesterday’s investigation came out, Tesla released a statement accusing us of being an “extremist organization” who’s “working directly with union supporters to create a calculated disinformation campaign.” A LOT to unpack right there. So let’s do it.

First of all, there’s zero “disinformation” in this story. The story is based on internal company documents, interviews with five former members of the Tesla safety team and dozens of other current and former employees as well as medical records of injured workers, OSHA records, 911 calls and Tesla’s own injury logs.

That information shows Tesla failed to report some of its serious injuries on legally mandated reports. This makes the company’s injury numbers look better than they actually are.

Case in point: Tarik Logan.

On to this accusation of “working directly with union supporters”: Our story was done completely independent of any unionization efforts. Some of the workers we talked to supported the union, but many had no involvement – including Tesla’s own former safety experts.

On to those emails: Here’s one from Justine White, the factory’s safety lead, to Elon Musk’s chief of staff on 12/21/16. “I know what can keep a person up at night regarding safety,” she wrote. “I must tell you that I can’t sleep here at Tesla.”

When White resigned, she warned that Musk’s preferences for the color yellow, and other aesthetic tastes, were creating an unsafe workplace. The reporters didn’t rely on just one source for these claims. They spoke with five former safety team members, and they all told the same fundamental concerns.

In its statement, Tesla complained about us visiting employees at their homes unannounced. We didn’t do that, though we do have to do it for some stories. They also complained about us getting in touch with employees on social media. That’s what fair reporters do. They go try to talk to as many people as possible to understand the true story. 

Tesla is yet to respond to Reveal’s fiery response.

Back in February, Tesla VP for Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) Laurie Shelby published a blog post outlining the company’s target of becoming the safest car factory in the world. Shelby noted that workers safety in an automotive production line usually comes down to a combination of common sense, a culture that values safety, the rollout of proactive preventive measures, and a management that listens to its employees. According to the 25-year veteran in the EHS field, Tesla already exhibited many of these attributes even before she joined the company in October 2017.

Tesla’s defense of workers’ safety triggers fiery Twitter rebuttal from Reveal
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