Coronavirus economy: Tesla job toll from furloughs tops 12,000

FREMONT — Tesla furloughs in Fremont and Lathrop topped the 12,000 level, official filings with the state labor agency show, revelations that arrived even as many workers for the maker of electric vehicles had begun to resume work this week after coronavirus-spawned shutdowns.

Alameda County and Tesla struck a deal this week allowing operations to resume with formal government approval by next week, although a wide array of activity already appears to be underway at Tesla’s Fremont vehicle factory.

Despite the agreement, thousands of Tesla workers were off the job at some point in recent weeks in Fremont and Lathrop due to coronavirus-linked business shutdowns that were mandated by state and local government officials.

The extent of the economic toll from the furloughs was sketched out in two letters that the state’s Employment Development Department received from Tesla on May 12.

“We decided to furlough these employees as a result of COVID-19, including a sudden and unpredictable impact on Tesla’s operations and employees,” Valerie Capers Workman, a human resources executive for Tesla, stated in a notice to the EDD.

Palo Alto-based Tesla said the coronavirus, as well as government decisions, played a role in the furloughs.

“This has included the recent extensions of local and state ‘shelter in place’ orders across the country and the temporary suspension of production and deliveries in many locations,” Tesla stated in its WARN notice.

About 11,100 workers were affected in two Fremont locations, including the vehicle factory and a nearby facility.

Another 156 employees were affected in Lathrop, where Tesla operates a distribution complex.

In Fremont, workers in a job category called production associate were the hardest hit, with furloughs that totaled 5,850 positions, the WARN notice disclosed.

A dispute between Tesla’s top boss Elon Musk and Alameda County authorities deteriorated this week into a standoff. At one point recently, Musk threatened to uproot Tesla from California and shift operations to other states, even suggesting that vehicle production would be among the economic refugees.

Ultimately, Tesla and Alameda County resolved their differences.

“Assuming that business conditions improve,” Tesla stated in the WARN notice, “the company expects the actions it is taking are temporary and that some or all of these employees will be able to return to work in the future.”

Tesla also issued a 38-page return-to-work playbook so employees and managers can operate safely and stay healthy.

“The world has changed which means our processes need to adapt to ensure we continue to carry out our mission and serve our customers safely,” Laurie Shelby, a Tesla vice president, stated in the guidelines. “The purpose of this playbook is to provide employees and the entire Tesla organization with safety protocols and steps to take to help keep yourself and the Tesla community safe.”



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Author: George Avalos

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