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Tesla factory worker calls for a union: “We need to stand up for ourselves” (medium.com)
123 points by pkkim on Feb 9, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 157 comments



Tesla's entire marketing message is about how they are saving the planet. It's really ironic then how many times I've heard about the terrible working conditions at their factories. One cannot really trust a message about saving the planet when you don't care about the people who need the saving.


It would be sensible to sacrifice the well-being of a small group in order to save the whole, if it's necessary to do so. I don't think your inference makes any sense. Poor working conditions for one factory and saving the planet as a whole are different concerns.

That said, I would certainly like to see them improve in this area. I'm a big fan of Tesla, but they are not without their flaws, and working conditions appear to be one of them. They should do better. Not because it somehow conflicts with their mission, but just because it's the right thing to do.


> It would be sensible to sacrifice the well-being of a small group in order to save the whole, if it's necessary to do so.

To paraphrase: "The ends justify the means".

I disagree. That road leads to all kinds of evil.


The key part of that, that makes it obviously morally correct is:

> if it's necessary to do so

There is no road in the context. It's either sacrifice the small group, or save the whole - that's the entire proposition. If you remove the necessity part, that changes the equation entirely.


> The key part of that, that makes it obviously morally correct is...

There's nothing obvious about it, look at the debates around assassinating Hitler for a historical example: http://theconversation.com/killing-hitler-when-is-assassinat...


>That road leads to all kinds of evil.

As long as we drive on that road on autopilot, no one will notice.


> It would be sensible to sacrifice the well-being of a small group in order to save the whole, if it's necessary to do so.

Your confidently declared decree of fact here suggests that you have some sort of god view that allows you to see all possible outcomes and interactions in all possible worlds.

It's also possible that sacrificing the people who actually know how to make things in order to facilitate profit and ego will lead to the annihilation of the society.


Indeed. I don't think it's actually necessary here, hence why I think they should fix this.


> Poor working conditions for one factory and saving the planet as a whole are different concerns.

I think that's contradictory. If you are setting out to save the world, but you can't improve factory conditions for your own workers, how have you shown the capability to save the world?

I'm reminded of having a strong AI agent that's given the condition "save humanity". That condition can be satisfied by having no humans on the planet to save.


>how have you shown the capability

It's irrelevant. Nothing you do for worker satisfaction in one factory demonstrates whether you can or cannot save the world. There is absolutely no contradiction in treating them separately. This doesn't excuse making workers unhappy, but it's really a separate issue.


It is most certainly not contradictory. For example, one could make the argument that the allied effort against the Nazis in WWII was tantamount to "saving the world", yet the allied forces certainly didn't treat everyone in the most humane way possible -- see Japanese internment in the US, or the presumable "war crimes" that Allied forces committed in WWII. Yet that doesn't mean Allied forces weren't capable of destroying the Axis, which obviously is what happened.

A similar argument could be made about the Cold War and McCarthyism. It is simply nonsensical to mistake the goal of "saving the world" with the goal of "don't ever treat anyone slightly questionably ever again".


Let me consider the opposite question: if you are setting out to save the world, and you can improve factory conditions for your own workers, how have you shown the capability to save the world?

It's just not relevant. It's a non sequitur. It's "A is bad, B is good, you're doing A, therefore you can't do B."


> It would be sensible to sacrifice the well-being of a small group in order to save the whole

Why then we don't revert to capturing slaves in poor countries and have them "save the whole" (like, recycle garbage by manual labour) while working 18 hr/day?

We can surely sacrifice their well-being in order to save the world for us, can't we?


From a strictly utilitarian point of view, we could go with "because it's impossible". Enslaving one group would only make things slightly easier for everyone else. In an alternate universe where we actually could solve huge problems by enslaving Belgium for three years then it might be worth it. I might even volunteer to help do the work.


Saving the world by exploiting Tesla factory workers seems equally impossible.


Yes, that's true, it's very unlikely it helps Tesla much in the first place. But if it could be done it would at least be worth having a discussion about the pros and cons.


I think the solution here is Human Rights and also Immanuel Kant's Categorical Imperative.

You can't use people as slaves unless situation is so that everybody has to become slave. Also, you can't use people as a tool (without their consent).

There's not much to discuss. We've been there already with Hitler's Work Camps and Stalin's GULAG Camps.


> You can't use people as slaves unless situation is so that everybody has to become slave. Also, you can't use people as a tool (without their consent).

> There's not much to discuss.

Since it's just an unrealistic though experiment, I wouldn't dismiss out of hand the idea of "enslaving" everyone for a short time for some kind of amazing outcome.

> We've been there already with Hitler's Work Camps and Stalin's GULAG Camps.

Ha. No. Neither of those gave enormous benefits to the world. And they killed people, not just put them through unpleasant working conditions. Completely noncomparable.


Well, Stalin used GULAG to dig river channels (Moscow channel for example), design planes and rockets. He just replaced HR department with arrest squads.

One can argue he had quite similar result in mind to the proposed electric-vechicle-enabling indentured servitude.

I don't think it would be excusable even if he avoided killing people while defaulting to raping and beating the crap out of them.


It's odd to get these extreme responses when I went out of my way to say that this behavior is wrong and they should change it.

I'm not defending Tesla's behavior. I'm just pointing out that it's not inherently contradictory.


Because the post you originally responded to was contrasting Tesla's (alleged) treatment of its employees with its save-the-world ethos in order to question the sincerity of the latter.

By adding the "if necessary" bit you turned it into a trolley problem which misses the point entirely.


It uses an extreme example to illustrate how the two are not contradictory. But you're right, I should have just gone straight for pointing out that they're not connected.


This is a very good point.


I think it's a little extreme to think one company and its electric cars are going to "save the world"...


I'm taking the hypothetical from the parent comment and running with it, not assuming it must be true.


"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few"

  -- Star Trek II, The Wrath of Kahn.


Whenever I see this argument, I always ask the same question:

Which position would you take in the line of people to be sacrificed? How much sacrifice are you willing to put up with? Not other people, just you.


If it was necessary? Sure, I'd volunteer.

I don't think it's necessary in this case, as I think my original comment made quite clear. There just isn't an inherent contradiction between these two things.


Your point is extremely well presented. I see that those with no counterargument resort to downvotes, because that is all that people of small minds and reasoning can do, downvote.


Yeah, Tesla is here to make money above all else, and they're gonna do as much time theft as they can, likely putting Amazon, Walmart & McDonalds to shame.

Shit must be real bad over there if they are attempting to unionize, if you notice the only places that still have a union in the US in spite of union busting are where the employer has made it an absolute living nightmare to work, hence the union to back the workers up.


Few people who would describe working as a teacher, an airline pilot, or a professional athlete as a "living nightmare".


Sure, few people may describe those jobs as a living nightmare, but most people have no first hand experience at working any of those jobs.

I'd never want to do any of those jobs, all three of them have positively awful working conditions, with the last usually resulting in lifelong mental damage from repeated jarring of the head (in addition to injuries), and most school districts & airlines push their teachers and pilots to the edge of the law, whether it be student load (and putting special needs students in classes with overloaded teachers illegally), or leaning on pilots to fly with the absolute minimum fuel they can get by with, despite regulations.


... do you have any firsthand experience working those jobs? I happen to know a number of pilots for major airlines and it's probably one of the nicest middle-upper class jobs you can get (assuming you can handle the responsibility).

> leaning on pilots to fly with the absolute minimum fuel they can get by with, despite regulations

You mean, asking pilots to use the minimum amount of fuel that is safe. Do you have any evidence that a major airline has ever pressured pilots to use less fuel than the (generous) regulated minimum?


Yes, public schools are just awful /s


You gotta educate 30+ children (some with special needs who likely aren't getting the assistance they are legally entitled to), the school administration, testing & overview policies (which treat teachers as totally incompetent here in the US) and deal with the kids parents to top it off.

Each of those factors alone can make for a bad work environment, combined it is a living nightmare. Plus the pay is very low, so its not as though you are able to afford much.


It's all about where you put the horizon in your short-term thinking. It's sort of like refusing to have your army defend against an invasion because some of your soldiers may die, when you're pretty sure the invaders are going to kill more people than that anyway if not stopped.

If Tesla's management really believes they are changing the world and having a non-negligible impact, then they might easily justify to themselves that while they aren't the most benevolent of employers, they make up for it with what they do. The problem is that a) people may not even agree their goal is beneficial, or b) accepting the prior as true may not agree the degree to which their actions are beneficial in the end, or c) accepting both the prior as true may not care because those actions may disproportionately affect the person in question.

In any case, I don't think it's as simple as you make it out to be.


I don't agree with this. I think the two are completely orthogonal. Your argument hinges on the assumption that saving the planet is strictly for the benefit of the humans living on the planet, and that seems wildly arrogant.


Then who or what is it for? Who cares about the earth if humans don't benefit? It's just a floating rock.


How about all the rest of the incredible amount of life that we share this floating rock with?


Well, for starters, more than half of that "life" doesn't even have thumbs, so even if that life were sentient beyond eat/fuck/kill, it couldn't pick up rocks or anything. I would say the majority of "life" on this planet is dumpster life, evolutionary mishaps that haven't yet been culled. There are more interesting animals out there, elephants, dolphins, etc., but again, thumbs.


It's incredible to me how dismissive you are of life itself given what an incredibly, unfathomably tiny percentage of matter can be classified as alive.


I agree, but most people couldn't care less about that. Most people eat meat, use housing that's displaced huge amounts of land that animals use to inhabit, etc.


Is it still on that floating rock when there's nobody to see it?

"If a tree falls in a forest"


> Then who or what is it for? Who cares about the earth if humans don't benefit? It's just a floating rock.

This is not directed at you personally, but the view that humans are all that matters is a kind of species narcissism. In fact, we derive all sorts of benefits from other species, such that if all of them were to disappear, so would we.


Yes. I mean I am totally a species narcissist I admit.

We gain a ton of benefits from other animals, obviously. But if we don't exist, then those animals no longer matter. We wouldn't benefit from them anymore. Anyway, this is getting a bit in the weeds.


Sure, except that by that metric, Tesla is a wildly inefficient venture. If your objective function is to reduce global warming, without any care about collateral damage to human quality of life, then a bioweapons company is a better choice than an electric cars one. So we have to assume that the objective function for Elon is a bit more complex than that.


A friend working over at spacex told me of the horrors there as well. Despite the love he gets here, Musk appears to be one of those nightmare bosses from the bad old days, the type that has not heard about peopleware and would scoff if he did.


Do you have any 'good' sources on other complaints about working conditions? Honest question, quick google search gives me a number of results but nothing that seems to have meaningful follow-up of any sort.


I thought of applying to Tesla as a software engineer, but after reading through Glassdoor reviews, I decided it's not worth to destroy my life, even if it's an amazing company in what it will hopefully achieve (and not so amazing in how it treats workers)


I think all public corporations should _require_ worker democracy. Democracy of our government naturally extends (with no logical inconsistency) to the publically-owned workplace. Unionization is more than a human right. A lot of negativity in here about "getting vending machine options"...how do you think we got the Weekend? By bowing down to slave-efficiency abroad? No. We need to be better than that. All publically traded companies should be unionized mandatorily. Think of it this way: should not a dictatorship be scrapped for a democracy immediately if one can do so? In this same sense, unionization is much more favorable than de facto feudalism. And our current system is feudalism with makeup. Make no mistake about that.

Forget about competing with China. We can raise the standard of living here for our workers. Union bosses have a seat at the board room table in Germany, why can't we do that here? Unionization (democracy in the workplace) is not just a right, it's an essential need. And it stems from the capitalistic fallacy: "You (the worker/producer) do not control the wages." And it shows in the devastatingly large surplus value that's caused crash after crash and recession after depression and the crippling wealth gap between rich and poor.


"Union bosses have a seat at the board room table in Germany"

From what I heard, they are sitting so often together at the "board room table", that you can't really seperate them from the ordinary bosses ...


> All publically traded companies should be unionized mandatorily.

I'm not against unions, but I think mandating them is a bad idea. Smells like a recipe for disaster. What if everyone's totally OK with their workplace? Government would be requiring an external (perhaps redundant) bureaucracy (with all its waste and inefficiency), supported from a cut of everyone's paycheck, regardless of whether people wanted it or not.


Makes no sense to me. Are you saying a doctor who smokes is not a good doctor ?

American workers should realize that they are competing with Chinese workers who will give life and limb to work in the environment that Tesla is providing them. They should either compete or let the Chinese do the work for 1/10th of the cost instead of whining about not getting diet soda in vending machines.


And the Chinese worker should feel lucky his job isn't shipped to Vietnam!...

And the Vietnamese worker should feel lucky his job isn't shipped to Bangladesh!...

And the Bangladeshi adult worker should feel lucky his job isn't given to Bangladeshi 9-year-olds!...

Seriously, you are right that if wages go too high and it's convenient for the company, they will take production elsewhere. That's not an argument for workers shutting up and taking scraps; it's an argument for a global minimum wage.


Or employ robots.


> American workers should realize that they are competing with Chinese workers who will give life and limb to work in the environment that Tesla is providing them.

They are realizing this - which is why they elected Donald Trump and his protectionist rhetoric.

> They should either compete or let the Chinese do the work for 1/10th of the cost instead of whining about not getting diet soda in vending machines.

"Let them eat cake."


> instead of whining about not getting diet soda in vending machines.

People are working forced overtime and cannot afford to pay for their housing. Critics like you are just polluting the discourse with these type of dismissive phrases.

This is not an effective way to advocate your point of view.


Why is this on the third page when there are stories on the second page with fewer points and posted before this one? At least in December 2015, ranking was a function of those two things: https://medium.com/hacking-and-gonzo/how-hacker-news-ranking...

Update: Page 4 as of a few minutes ago: http://imgur.com/a/M6XuC


Yep, that's what I just noticed too. Interesting how a story about unionization gets pushed down.

It will be interesting to see if any tech news sites pick up on this story at all. It seems like anything to do with labour/unions gets ignored.


Also noticed that and was disappointed. What else goes into the rankings apart from points & time?

Edit: Now page 6: http://imgur.com/3CAfOnT. (Look at the points/times of the stories above and below it...)


Rankings are also affected by the amount of comments and downvoting but when you see a story that should be on Page 1 on page 7 (at the moment) it seems overwhelmingly likely that it's flag abuse, in this case by the musk worshippers.


It's likely that their long term vision will entail a fully-automated production line (similar to Amazon's logistics goals). In fact it's necessary to churn out units fast enough to hit their production goals. Their recent acquisitions in the factory automation (Grohmann Engineering, etc) will ultimately help alleviate these workers complaints, but perhaps at the expense of their jobs...

That said, there's no excuse for treating employees poorly, even if they're "temporary"...whether it's Tesla, Apple, or Amazon.


will ultimately help alleviate these workers complaints, but perhaps at the expense of their jobs

definitely at the expense of their jobs. capital/owners get to keep all the earnings, the workers get nothing. this is why it's important for workers to be part of co-operatives or to have profit-sharing or more equity or shares.


A robot fully capable of replacing a human worker is along way off car plants are always at the cutting edge of automation


However, if you look at their manufacturing approach at Gigafactory 1 and the incredible amount of automation there (machines building machines) it's clear they're treating the factory as a modular, scaleable product than a traditional manufacturing facility. I suspect they intend to do something similar with the Model III - design a product/production line with automation in mind from the ground-up. The barebones interior of the new vehicle comes to mind...


4 of my roommates work at Tesla and they all either underreport their hours by about 20% (work 60/week, report 50) or complain about their direct reports leaning on them to do so. It's really toxic! Tesla should be able to do well without stealing from their imported Canadian interns.


Should they? They're trying to disrupt a hundred year old industry which has used that time to gain efficiency and acquire a stable workforce.

Not to mention, many car companies _mainly_ build their luxury and more expensive models in the US. Perhaps the calculus is Tesla has to bank on it's next to get motivated workers and push them to make their production goals.

I mean, if I didn't have a fun programming career I might be tempted to help them build cars since working with my hands sounds fun, and so does being a part of Tesla.

That being said, does it make it fair? Is it exploitation if the claims are true? Course it isn't fair. I think the best case is Tesla makes a boat load of money selling model 3's and is able to invest in paying it's workforce well, which feels like a pretty crumby thing to hope for since I care a lot about workers rights :/


Part of the complaint remarks that since the Tesla plant is located in an expensive area, the workers need more money.

They might want to rethink the wisdom of that comment: that's a great argument to move the plant to Tennessee. Or Nevada.


Absolutely amazing that's what you see. Tesla shareholder, friend?

His main complain is mandatory overtime, bad production flow, dangerous working conditions, frequent injuries, and management refuses to listen to feedback. In short, it's a dangerous irresponsible sweatshop from the 19th century.

Will moving the plant to Tennessee or Nevada help because you believe there are no federal labor regulations or safety considerations in those states?


Edited: Removed insufficiently polite comments

I live in Fremont. The Tesla plant is our #1 employer and I'd really like to keep it. I'm suggesting that the employee stick to arguments that makes sense to everyone (work causing physical harm) and which are in Tesla's interest to fix. Keep away from arguments which are little more than "you should move away."

I remember the GM plant closing. I don't want to see a repeat.


Oh, right so your response is I am a fool. Good response.

You'd like to keep the factory in your town. But you don't care the workers are being abused and working in unsafe conditions. Why is that specifically that you feel this way? That you would want your friends and neighbors to be treated abusively and subjected to needlessly dangerous conditions? I really don't see why someone as a resident of Fremont who has absolutely no other connection to Fremont or this factory would adopt such a position. Please enlighten me.


You're misinterpreting cjensen's comments. This is Hacker News, where people like to use an engineering mindset to find smaller faults in arguments, even when they may agree with the overall argument. I believe cjensen's purpose in commenting was to constructively criticize the author's complaints. He's saying this one specific complaint, about regional wages, is flawed because Tesla could theoretically solve that one specific complaint in a way that hurts those workers, by moving the jobs away to a cheaper cost-of-living region.

The point is that by removing the flawed argument, and keeping the legitimate arguments, the overall message becomes stronger.

Your accusation "But you don't care the workers are being abused and working in unsafe conditions." is inventing and attacking something that cjensen never said or implied.


> But you don't care the workers are being abused and working in unsafe conditions. Why is that specifically that you feel this way? That you would want your friends and neighbors to be treated abusively and subjected to needlessly dangerous conditions?

I think you missed the part where the parent wrote:

> I'm suggesting that the employee stick to arguments that makes sense to everyone (work causing physical harm) and which are in Tesla's interest to fix.

Either that, or you're not here for an honest exchange of ideas.


You appear to be assuming that because I disagreed with one thing the guy said, I must disagree with all of the things he said. That is wrong: please dial back on assuming things.


Please calm down. This is not a place for bickering.

Not only that but you're misunderstanding cjensen's comments, which were suggesting that the complainant stick to the poor working conditions as the basis of their complaint. Your response challenging that they should have more concern for the poor working conditions doesn't make any sense.


They're not going to move the plant. They can't. Musk has set a goal of 500k cars by 2018. This one is cranking out 74k. Even with the Audi genius, no way in hell are they multiplying throughout by 7x at this facility in the next 10 months. They are going to need more facilities. Period.


You are right that they won't shut the plant anytime soon. In the long term, they could manufacture anywhere. Staying in Fremont isn't a sure thing.


There's a reason all of the Rust Belt manufacturing moved to the South East, and it ain't the weather. Who'd have thought that low taxes and right to work laws would lead to economic expansion, and their opposite would lead to contraction?


Last I heard the Reno Gigafactory is still half empty. Tons of land and cheap housing. No income tax.


tl;dr Worker at the Tesla plant in Fremont, CA wants a union at the plant. There are a lot of grievances, including: health and safety; questionably legal attempts to stop workers from organizing; low pay; long hours; management that doesn't listen.


"Recently, every worker was required to sign a confidentiality policy that threatens consequences if we exercise our right to speak out about wages and working conditions."

If that's true, it's outrageous.


http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Tesla-employee-speaks...

"Last month, five members of the Assembly wrote a letter to Tesla CEO Elon Musk referring to the confidentiality pledge and expressing concerns that the breadth of the agreement “impermissibly violates protected employee activity under state and federal law, including the right to communicate to each other and the public about wages, working conditions and other issues.” The members asked Tesla to revise the policy."


I took a tour of the tesla factory and our tour guide (who was a factory worker) said all factory workers are free to join the UAW. He said most don't because tesla has better wages and benefits. Guess he was blowing smoke up our asses????


Not necessarily. This is just an article by some random person on Medium. It may not be legit.


Why cant the workers create a forum and a bug tracking system and write their concerns and let everyone up-vote it and get the management to address them.

Organizing is so easy and transparent with technology. You do not have to use old-fashioned politically motivated words like "workers union"


"so easy and transparent" Maybe for you, but perhaps not everyone has your experience. Unions have there place, even today.


yes exactly. the unions can be on the cloud.


You're assuming management is unaware of the problems, and is of their own intention wanting to fix the problems.

That's not necessarily the case. Managers often get bonuses for achieving goals that are only possible by treating workers poorly.

Until there is negative reinforcement for that (union walkout), there's not much motivation to change things.


Why would you make such unsubstantiated claims about "management" in general? Were you in management? What did you do differently to address such problems?

This lack of trust in "management" and politicizing working to a damaging extent might be the biggest reasons why manufacturing will never come back to America.


I'm a software developer. What I know about manufacturing, I learned from my Grandfather, who lived through the depression, worked 4 jobs all the time, and died from the emphysema he caught from inhaling the fumes from unsafe chemicals in the factories he worked in - back before there were adequate protections FORCED upon those companies by organized labor and the government.

But that's harping on the past. No, I'm talking about my own personal experience as a software engineer.

I've seen managers get big bonuses for denying their workers vacation time. I've seen employees get "disciplined and fired" for minor infractions, that I'm certain had NOTHING to do with their medical conditions that were driving up the costs of the company's medical plan (that would be illegal!)

And more, I don't even NEED the evidence I've presented. I'm drawing the cost-benefit analysis in raw terms. And I'm saying SOME managers play that analysis in ways that hurt workers, and think those costs (of hurting employees, employee morale, reputation of the company) will be short-term, and are worth the short-term benefits.

This blind faith that managers will always do right by their employees ignores the facts. Some managers don't. And workers need to protect themselves from those few who are dangerously abusive.


unfortunately this will lead to retaliation against those organising employers are not above hireling shady organisations to break unions - who would have no compunctions in hacking such an online system.


Yes retaliation would be swift here, or the concerns would be bluntly ignored - this is why union organizing is a skilled effort and not something that can be fixed via algorithm.


...which is why unions depend on customers organizing a boycott.


very interesting that this story is very popular but doesn't seem to appear on the frontpage of hacker news? can any of the mods address how that works and on which page this story appears?


Reading this:

http://www.theverge.com/2016/11/8/13561146/tesla-acquisition...

Makes me wonder where this will lead for the workers.


Just to think that only a decade ago, at the same exact plant in Fremont, California there was a different story about a car company. A story how Toyota's culture was the anti-culture for the toxic GM culture and their unions.

Well worth to listen a couple of minutes to a short history lesson regarding this place https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/403/...


It's hard to feel passionate about this either way for me.

Yes workers should be able to unionize for their own benefit but at the same time what Tesla is doing is much bigger than the individual. The company is at a crucial moment, they're about to scale up for their first consumer priced car.

This is the first time I've ever heard of discontent from Tesla factory workers. It seems very calculated, but at the same time I have no knowledge of working conditions.


I often feel that the hate directed toward Tesla and it's fanbase is unwarranted. Arguments about how they aren't that amazing, how their fans are over the top and how they took government subsidies just fell flat for me. They all have very transparent and valid counter-points. It's okay to feel that a corporation is pretty darn neat. It's okay if others feel it's amazeballs. Chill out.

But this comment. The one I'm responding to. It's the first time I've seen someone talk about Tesla and thought "WTF? This person can't be serious."

It's okay to think it's "important". I think Tesla is pretty darn neat. Asking others to quietly sacrifice their health for that thing? While being uninvolved yourself? That, I can't wrap my head around.


Very balanced comment. Echos my reaction. I love Tesla and what Elon Musk is doing. I love his vision. But I am horrified (though I supposed not shocked) to see how casually the consumer/investor base throw workers under the bus.


Why don't you think I'm being serious?

I stated that I'm conflicted and seeing both sides.


My reasons are outlined in the last four sentences of my comment.


Well you're putting words in my mouth then. I never said anything about workers needing to sacrifice their health.

I stated ambivalent feelings and questioned the timing while admitting my own nativity about true conditions.


My mistake. I was suppose to read your comment, a comment on an article with multiple paragraphs dedicated to the health and safety of Tesla workers, as if it were not a response to claims about the health and safety of Tesla's workers.

Got it.


What "subsidies"? The tax break nearly ALL auto manufacturers are taking for the first ~250k EVs they each make? Or are we talking about the loan they took from the DoE that Tesla repaid like a decade ahead of schedule?


For arguments _against_ Tesla, you'll have to go looking elsewhere. If you read my comment again, you might note that I didn't make those arguments and in fact said that they fell flat for me. I also mentioned that there are great counter-points to such arguments. Put more plainly, I already understand and agree with the point you're making.

You're literally arguing with someone who agrees with you on the internet. Take a breath and consider that.


:) I wasn't arguing with you. I was trying to net out the lunacy you are observing.


> It seems very calculated.

Union organization is very calculated. It has to be because union opposition is also very calculated, especially when it's done lawfully. It's calculated because there are very specific protocols that have to be followed that may or may not be enforced by laws with sharp teeth (depending on the state). This makes it very sensitive. Also, public relations is a significant part of the playing field. The company and the union are trying to use it to both bolster and gauge support.

With all that said, I wish the best for both parties in coming to an agreement where workers can safely and efficiently build cars that will eventually replace most gas powered cars with all its moving parts with EV cars with minimal moving parts.


> but at the same time what Tesla is doing is much bigger than the individual

I don't think you really believe that - if you truly internalized this, then isn't the conclusion that you should go find any way possible to contribute to them as well?


I actually do believe it and that's why I reserved a model 3.

Maybe I just bought into their rhetoric, maybe. But I believe that the company's vision is more directed at sustainable transportation rather than profit.

They have worked really hard and brought in a lot of investment working towards an electric car. If Musk was truly profit driven he could have made a lot more money, a lot faster by directing his energy elsewhere.


Reserving a model 3 is pretty weak.

If you really believe in them you should work 12 hour shifts in one of their factories, making the dream happen and saving the planet.


I guess I'm coming across as too idealistic if trolls start throwing daggers.

Sorry not sorry


if you truly internalized this, then isn't the conclusion that you should go find any way possible to contribute to them as well?

Everyone has limited resources. What you chose to contribute to and your level of contribution will vary. For example, commitments to one's family may preclude contributing to Tesla beyond reserving a Model 3 untenable. This is independent of one's belief in the impact of what Tesla is doing.


Why? The argument being made is that the workers should suck it up and accept the low pay and grueling working conditions because of the importance of the work Tesla is doing. If you accept this argument, then why can't I also say that you should simply accept that giving up on your commitments to your family is also a necessary sacrifice?


Point well taken. I agree that reserving a Model 3 is not equivalent to working in the conditions described in the submission. Thanks for pushing back!


>The argument being made is that the workers should suck it up and accept the low pay and grueling working conditions because of the importance of the work Tesla is doing.

I did not make that argument whatsoever. You made that up.


>but at the same time what Tesla is doing is much bigger than the individual.

Isn't this essentially the same line used by startups to lowball recent grads? It seems to me this board would know better.


Tesla has been developing cars for 14 years and they have yet to make a profit. Musk has stated numerous times that the vision of he company is sustainable transport.

I realize I've probably chugged the kool-aid at this point but I can't fathom why Musk would work so hard towards this goal and not be thinking about the big picture.


Pretty sure those investors are counting on a pay day. One that comes only if Tesla hits its 500k production goal by the end of next year. Tesla has already worn out its welcome with investors, hence selling magic beans in order to raise $370M via Model 3 preorder deposits. It's do or die for them now. GM is catching up, even beat Tesla to the Everyman's car, and has capital to burn.

Personally, I'm rooting for them. But they only get to play altruist if they make it pay for the investors.


>Tesla is doing is much bigger than the individual. The company is at a crucial moment, they're about to scale up for their first consumer priced car.

How so? What is it that they're doing that is so special, beyond what Ford, GM, Toyota, Fiat, VW Group and a multitude of others are doing? They're building electric cars. All of them. Why do people think Tesla deserves "special snowflake" status?


Tesla is leading the way in electric vehicles and they've been doing it for a while. They've given away all their engineering blueprints, for free. They've yet to make a profit and somehow the entire industry is following them. Snowflake or trail blazer?


Are they really? GM beat them by a few years on getting out an affordable all electric car (the Bolt) and an alternating electric/ICE car (the Volt). Both of which are very well reviewed and received by customers.

It seems like GM is leading the way to me, while Tesla has been dragging its feet and making luxury cars. But I guess GM is not sexy enough for 20 somethings.


Tesla never attempted to enter the hybrid market and was never competing with the Volt.

The Bolt is a rush to market toy car. You're right they beat Tesla to the market with an affordable car, but no one wants it because it's tiny and GM has built a terrible reputation for itself. Sales numbers reflect this.

For most people a car is a significant purchase and value plays a large role in this purchase.


The Volt isn't a hybrid in the traditional sense at all. It is fully electric if you want it to be. I've actually been eying it as my next purchase. It is very unique among cars in the way it works. It only becomes a hybrid when it runs out of charge.


>what Tesla is doing is much bigger than the individual

Man, the hype about that company truly has reached unreal proportions right now.


No kidding. They're building electric (and now self-driving) cars - something every car company on the planet is also trying to do. If Tesla doesn't get there it's only a small setback for the technology, not the end of electric, autonomous vehicles.


Yeah the company has a big purpose, but it's ridiculous to ignore something like this. Do you think a majority of the factory employees or even engineering employees, for that matter, care about the "big goal"? I assure you that they don't. Early on in the company, yes, a majority felt that way, but now its an established corporation trading $ for labor. If they don't care about their employees, many of them will go elsewhere, which isn't in Tesla's interest for the time being.


This is my instinct as well. The timing, tone and language of this feels pretty scripted here. I don't care if Tesla unionizes or not, but they may just trade one set of problems for another if they do.


Has anyone actually verified this? Its a random person writing on Medium, and its their only article.


Are you under the impression Tesla employees would have been blogging on Medium about working conditions before unionizing?

I don't see why this wouldn't be an actual Tesla employee (I'm open to theories), and assuming it is because this is the sort of thing an employee would do while consulting with the UAW.


How about this being a union rep from another car company who is afraid for his job?


The workers should feel free to form a union -- this is a fundamental right. The risk is that management will increase the number of robots in an already highly automated factory, eventually replacing all the humans.

Then the robots will form a union.


> The workers should feel free to form a union -- this is a fundamental right.

I agree that people should have the right to band together in an organized way to increase negotiating power. What I have a problem with is when joining the union and paying dues becomes expected or even mandatory.

When I was in college, I worked a summer for a high-end grocery store as a part-time bagger. Nearly every day the assistant manager (the local union representative) would accost me to join the union and to pay union dues. As a part-time and temporary employee this made absolutely no sense for my situation and would only serve to modestly increase the bargaining power and coffers of the union.

In other situations paying dues to the union becomes mandatory under the legal concept of "fair share fees" where non-union members are required to pay into the bargaining costs of the union.

> If a majority of the public employees at a given site vote to be represented by a union, that union becomes the exclusive bargaining agent for the workers. In California, some 325,000 teachers in more than 1,000 school districts are represented by the California Teachers Association and, to a lesser extent, the California Federation of Teachers.

> Of those, 9 percent have not joined the union, but under California law, any union contract must cover them too, and so they are required to pay an amount that covers the costs of negotiating the contract and administering it. The idea is that they reap the bread-and-butter benefits covered by the contract — wages, leave policies, grievance procedures, etc. — so they should bear some of the cost of negotiating that contract.

http://www.npr.org/2016/01/11/462607980/scotuspublicunions


The situation in the NPR article and your own seem different though. Are you saying the teachers in California should be able to benefit from the union without paying any dues? How do you expect a union to continue to exist in that circumstance?


> The situation in the NPR article and your own seem different though.

Good point - I realize that including my own experience muddied the waters of my argument a bit.

I mentioned my experience to highlight that aside from the situation where an employee is legally required to pay fees to a union there are other ways that a union can apply undo pressure onto an employee who does not want to join. In my case, it became clear that membership in the union was expected and not just suggested.

> Are you saying the teachers in California should be able to benefit from the union without paying any dues?

The "benefit" that non-union members receive from the bargaining of the union only applies as the established agreements extend to all employees (both union and non-union).

I'm saying that non-union employees should not be included in outcome of union negotiations. Non-union employees are by definition not represented by the union - they've opted not to participate as part of the collective bargaining group and should not be forced to pay into or support the negotiations of the bargaining group.

> How do you expect a union to continue to exist in that circumstance?

A union would be able to continue to exist as long as there is enough benefit of membership that it can continue to recruit and retain dues-paying members.


>A union would be able to continue to exist as long as there is enough benefit of membership that it can continue to recruit and retain dues-paying members.

In this example why would the corporation hire/retain any union member? The union would cease to exist if this were allowed.


Firing someone because they were involved in union activity is extremely illegal. It happens only when companies are confident there won't be consequences.


Perhaps the union can continue to exist, perhaps not, but the workers certainly shouldn't suffer a private tax. It must be nice being able to tax a group of workers like that, needing only to hand over a cut to the politicians to ensure that the private tax can be enforced.

From the worker's point of view, the continued viability of the union is "not my problem".

Maybe I can dip into your paycheck? Perhaps I should give a cut to your governor, ensuring I get some enforcement. Not that you wouldn't love to pay me of course, but you might forget. Actually, let's just take it out of your paycheck. I need a new car.


In this example you're doing things like increasing the amount of vacation I get, raising my wages and in general existing as a balance to the power of the corporation I work for?


Sure, same as any union: I'll put in a word for you, though mostly I'll just pay myself and make campaign contributions to politicians that you might hate.


I'll consider this the end of productive discussion.


Now imagining bender or data (start treck) as a union activist :-)


I see Bender as more of a "Destroy all unions" kind of guy.

Seriously, I think we as a species should be more considerate with the ways we treat each other. If we're lucky, the machines will learn that from us.

If a super intelligent AI came to life today, it might learn one too many lessons about employers cutting human costs, media companies disparaging the unemployed as lazy layabouts that deserve nothing, and the always-too-easy-to-manipulate human psyche.

And then we humans would have to reckon with a machine that excels at the worst traits of people that our society deems necessary to have to shower with money and power.


Bender was a scab in Season 3 Episode 6.


Also, if the unions didn't exist, he couldn't loot their pension funds.


That risk exists irregardless of the formation of a union. Automation of mundane physical tasks is just that much cheaper than manual labor over the long run.


Risk is a spectrum. The higher the wage the more incentive to automate. It is not always cheaper to automate, but if you push wages above that point...

note: irregardless is not a word, it is just regardless


That seems like a recipe for progress to me. Encouraging automation is better than denying it exists.


Robot union API would be a great project for a future YC application. ;-)


This is so true. You will think that robots do not strike, until this day when you forget to renew your license with robot-maker.


Seems pointless to me... on their conference calls they say that by 2018 no one will touch the cars... it will all be built by robots. the model 3 is designed with automated general assembly in mind (hence the big open roof).


Title has been editorialized.

Actual title: Time for Tesla to Listen


[flagged]


We detached this flagged subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13609988.


could you leave stuff like that at reddit?


Are you suggesting that my dissenting opinions are not welcome on HN because you do not agree with them? I am only pointing out that the demands like these make it more attractive for the management to move to countries where they are welcomed!


DH4 and above on this outline the more likely to engage (and avoid getting mod'd down) http://www.paulgraham.com/disagree.html

"Counterargument is contradiction plus reasoning and/or evidence. When aimed squarely at the original argument, it can be convincing."


You are not only pointing that out. You are defending it in an emotive way.

Just sayin'. ;-)


WOW. I'm impressed! :D




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