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Tesla Is a 'Hotbed for Racist Behavior,' Worker Claims in Suit (bloomberg.com)
65 points by djsumdog 65 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 73 comments



I wish the media waited until they had more red meat before stirring people up with these he-said she-said stories. It turns everything into such noise that most people just don't pay attention or care.

I remember years ago the media was doing the same thing to that poor old lady who got scalded by McDonald's coffee. They ballyhooed the initial $1M (edit: actually $2.86M) judgment as front-page news, but the little details--like having burns severe enough to require skin grafts, or the judgment being reduced to a few hundred grand on appeal that barely covered her hospital expense--was always tiny print published much later.

The result? People were driven to the bogus conclusion that torts-gone-wild were root of all evil, and of course, we end up with the current scenario of arbitration-gone-wild (like in this article). We traded a non-problem for a serious one thanks to media disaster porn.

Whatever awful things I can say about Facebook or Twitter, I have to concede some degree of gratitude to them for eviscerating the mainstream media.


> Whatever awful things I can say about Facebook or Twitter, I have to concede some degree of gratitude to them for eviscerating the mainstream media.

Except Facebook is entirely driven by engagement with absolutely zero value placed on truth, it drives all posts towards a supermarket check-out lane tabloid sensibility. I'm not sure how that can be considered an improvement on any axis.


Because then there's one big enemy we can gang up on instead of a million little ones that scatter like roaches.


I don't know, it might make the single target bigger. But monopolisation almost always hurts the consumer. At least where there were a million little crappy news sources, there were a few good ones.


Is that such a bad thing?

Is it better to have a few "authoritative" sources everyone believes that exhort us all to do something stupid, like Vietnam or Iraq, and we trust them, and we do it with minimal-to-no hesitation? Or, is it better to have a million little squabbling social-media echo chambers and gridlock?

So far, I think I prefer the latter.


The sad thing is, there are people who know how to manipulate the media for nefarious gains. Not that I'm arguing that this story is like that, but it's sad to me that many journalists are motivated to publish sensational stories immediately rather than wait and do the research first.

Read "Trust Me, I'm Lying" by Ryan Holiday for a frightening look at media manipulation.


The McDonald's case was most likely intentional though. They're a big company and most likely pushed the media that direction as damage control. There's a good Adam Ruins Everything video on it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNWh6Kw3ejQ


Are Facebook and Twitter any better? Everybody is going for page views.


Not so much better as more tractable...


That McD's story is like second level fake-news/rush-to-judgement. Yes, the woman was seriously hurt. So people shouldn't have reacted quite so strongly.

But now people use it as an example of rush to judgement, when really, people were mostly right about it in the first place. She shouldn't have put fresh coffee in her crotch. McD's still brews their coffee just as hot because that is how you are supposed to. She shouldn't have gotten a dime.


I (somewhat) agree. At the very least, I dislike how people equate "nasty burn" with "obvious guilt". That's not how it works. There are many ways you can get a burn without it being some big corporation's fault. If you prepare boiling water in a kettle and spill it on yourself, you can't use the nasty burns as proof that the kettlemaker was obviously guilty and deserving to pay your bills.

There is a defensible case that the particular level of coffee temperature, combined with some rational standard for how it should be labeled, combined with general consumer preferences for temperature and understanding of what to expect when served coffee, all together imply that McDonald's acted negligently.

But that debate is always short-circuited in discussions about the case, where everyone is tripping over each other to say, "oh, you disagree with the verdict? I guess you didn't see these pictures [NSFW]. Checkmate, skeptics."

Or worse, "the lawyers were really aloof when Liebeck was trying to be cool."

Those really aren't good reasons to make a decision.


Even if that is the case, it would have been nice if the media had actually dug into details instead of just sensationalizing the hell out of it.

Back in '94 the media was in better shape and had more than enough resources to do it right, but they didn't.


> Back in '94 the media was in better shape

No, it wasn't. The mid-1990s was pretty much the modern minimum for health of the US media; it was the end of decades of decline driven by corporate consolidation and cutting local resoures in traditional media, and before competing new media provided alternatives and spurred new efforts in traditional media.


What is your metric for health?

Just going off my own recollection, it looks like broadcast has fragmented into a million irrelevant outposts, all racing each other to the bottom.

Print seems to be in even worse shape. In the southeast, almost every paper outside of the largest state metro has been shuttered and centralized into a state-wide newsroom running on a skeleton crew.

I don't know how those trajectories gets classified as improvements...


Don't know. McD made the coffee purposely hot so people wouldn't drink it inside the local shop, meaning they would get less refills. They knew people were getting burned because of it, and decided to keep doing it. They had the power to fix it and the incentive not to. Being liable in a lawsuit is the right kind of fix.


> McD made the coffee purposely hot so people wouldn't drink it inside the local shop, meaning they would get less refills.

Source? Particularly since places like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts that do not offer free refills serve at roughly the same temperature.


I think it was from Adam ruins everything, don't have a source at hand.


There is no way McD's cares about free coffee refills. Starbucks serves at the same temperature. It's the optimal brewing temperature.


In fairness, if someone is a jerk to you, but sincerely apologizes, it is important to be thick-skinned and accept that apology.

I think this only works in isolated cases when the offending party accidentally says something offensive, or there was misunderstanding.

I'm pretty sure everyone understands the meaning of the N word. Any prevalent behavior like this is unacceptable no matter how many "sincere" apologies follow.


Yea but people that never had to deal with racism coupled with a distinct lack of empathy for or experience of a average person with little to no power, such as Musk, will never understand that.


How do you know Elon Musk has never had to deal with racism and has no empathy for the experience of an average person? My understanding is that he grew up as a fairly average person in South Africa.


Read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elon_Musk#Early_childhood and tell me that you think that is the "average" person.


> Musk was severely bullied throughout his childhood, and was once hospitalized when a group of boys threw him down a flight of stairs and then beat him until he lost consciousness.

Huh...well according to that book that's sourced, he at least knew about bullying.


Bullying is not racism.

Sure bullying is wrong and leaves victims hurt very badly. For most people bullying ends after a while, when they grow up.

Racism on the other hand is superset of things, of which bullying is a part. In a racist set up you have to deal with discrimination day in and out, even if not physical assault, you still have to deal with lost opportunities, economic hardships and social problems for no mistake of yours.


Read it, expecting summers in Rangoon, luge lessons, and meat helmets. Was rather disappointed.


Did YOU read it?

"Musk was severely bullied throughout his childhood, and was once hospitalized when a group of boys threw him down a flight of stairs and then beat him until he lost consciousness."


Oh yes, the one thing there that makes him like the rest of us. I can't roll my eyes hard enough.


What specifically is it that makes his childhood elite?


How many kids do you know whose dad is an electromechanical engineer, pilot, sailor and whose mom is a model?


I did read that actually, there's nothing in there that really screams a non-average upbringing to me. Maybe above average in terms of wealth... but not ridiculously so.


Well, you're free continue believing that is average in the distribution of wealth and socioeconomic status. Those of us that grew up poor or lower middle class will continue believing he grew up privileged as fuck.


When you throw around words like privilege, you pretend you know and understand someone's circumstances.

I remember defending Randy Ben on Twitter once after he got kicked out of Kiwicon for violation of the code of conduct (they never even said what he specifically did or said that was a violation). This friend of mine, not in tech and not a hacker, goes on and on about how she didn't expect a straight, cis, male to understand, blah blah blah.

Just because I'm male doesn't negate my right to an opinion. Just because I don't experience the same things you do doesn't negate my opinion. I wrote an article about this a while ago actually, about the Race to the Bottom:

http://khanism.org/people/race-to-the-bottom/


> When you throw around words like privilege, you pretend you know and understand someone's circumstances.

When you dismiss words like privilege, you pretend there isn't a difference between people's circumstances. Especially in a case like this when it is beyond obvious that there is a difference.

> Just because I'm male doesn't negate my right to an opinion. Just because I don't experience the same things you do doesn't negate my opinion. I wrote an article about this a while ago actually, about the Race to the Bottom:

This literally has nothing to do with the subject at hand.


Did you feel like you understood what your friend was saying?


> Those of us that grew up poor or lower middle class will continue believing he grew up privileged as fuck.

And what does that mean exactly? If someone accuses him of racism then they must be right because he's too privileged to have empathy? He's too privileged to understand racism? If you grew up poor or lower middle class in a developed nation then to people living on 30 cents a day in the 3rd world you're privileged as fuck. And we're all privileged as fuck compared to people who had the misfortune of being born 1000 years ago, does that mean they're the only ones who have empathy? That doesn't make a lot of sense to me. But maybe it's because I'm privileged as fuck too.


And there are plenty of poor people in low income countries who grow up in hell and are just as psychopathic as fortune 500 bankers. They might run gangs, commit crime and kill those who cross them with little to no remorse.

There are also many poor people who do an honest days work, try to help every family member and do their best for their families, villages and communities.

Your status doesn't indicate what type of person you are.


> If someone accuses him of racism

Who did? I certainly didn't. I said he didn't experience it. So then who are you referring to?

> He's too privileged to understand racism?

I question the logic of anyone who that read his response to the alleged harassment and doesn't ask wtf he was thinking. That conclusion is a perfectly legitimate one to his handling of the situation.

> If you grew up poor or lower middle class in a developed nation then to people living on 30 cents a day in the 3rd world you're privileged as fuck. And we're all privileged as fuck compared to people who had the misfortune of being born 1000 years ago, does that mean they're the only ones who have empathy? That doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Ah yes, Reductio ad absurdum rears its head. Makes for a excellent and persuasive argument doesn't it?

> But maybe it's because I'm privileged as fuck too.

Yea you are, the fact that you got all uppity about it, makes me think you don't appreciate how fortunate you really are.


And we're all privileged as fuck compared to people who had the misfortune of being born 1000 years ago, does that mean they're the only ones who have empathy? That doesn't make a lot of sense to me. But maybe it's because I'm privileged as fuck too.

If you're privileged enough to have the 1st world problem of too much social media, then you are probably empathically challenged, because social media erodes humanity. (Especially if you are on the side with power, which some might argue is actually the left when it comes to the media.)


Well that and my guess is race issues have a higher share of collective consciousness in SA. Obviously he’s in the ideal position in the US, however.


SpaceX, at least in the Seattle office, is widely known as a ruthless, stressful workplace with high turnover. I'm not surprised at all that Musks' other ventures are similar.


SpaceX sent me a rejection letter. Difficulty level? I didn't apply.

Another time they called me for a very specialized position, I told them, "I'm not qualified for this." The recruiter assured me it wouldn't be a problem. I go through the rigamarole and a couple days later the same guy calls me back to tell me I'm not qualified.

Weird. People.


Having gone through their HR pipeline, it seems highly dysfunctional. Not surprised by your experience.


I got offered a job there. Then another HR employee called and said wait, they needed to find out my SAT/ACT scores before they could actually offer me the job. I had most of a master's degree at that point. I still got the offer, but it was really strange.


Same here. My bet is that their KPIs are top-of-the-funnel, not bottom.


wonder how you can combine high turnover with rocket science disruption. There's a limited supply of people qualified enough to work in that company, so you would think that they make everything possible to keep them.


Top positions/teams that actually matter for rockets have surely low turnover; the non-essential roles like internal software developer for moving a crane from point A to point B are likely the ones where most people won't last long.


Not surprising. If you are expected to do a lot of work for below or market standard pay, you are likely to quit soon.


What does that have to do with racism?


High stress, ultra-competitive workplace culture brings out the worst in people. This is not exactly a secret.


It's not a secret but you'd have to be seriously run down to start ranting racial slur at coworkers you have issues with. Maybe that's really just how sressful the company is .. but damn that would be crazy.


I mean, it seems like there are definitely some racist assholes working at Tesla just like everywhere else. The difference between those people 'getting it' and 'not getting it' is the set of norms, customs, and values of the people around them.


On top of that, often people say racist words not because they really care about skin color, but because its just an easy way to piss people off when they're mad and looking to piss people off.

Whether or not that doesn't count as racism is up for debate. But its similar to the motivations behind trolling, which is more or less just to stir shit up.


I don't think whether that counts for racism is up for debate.


I disagree. Therefore its up for debate and you're wrong =) I think to be a racist you actually need to dislike people for their race. Motivation matters. Saying something racially mean only because you want to make them upset and not because you actually care about their race is not racist. Why? Because you don't actually dislike them for their race.


A better example is how trash talk at the line of scrimmage used to be done in the NFL.


I would hope NFL game tactics wouldn't be used as a analogies for ethics.


It's not an analogy. It's a different example where they aren't mad while trying to get in somebody's head.


But somehow the link between high stress and racism is thin.



It'd be interesting to know specifics.


Unfortunately, you may be in the wrong journalistic era for those.


Exactly, the article is nonsense.


There is literally so much negative news on Tesla lately.

I am not even a fan of the stock either, but damn their is a gigantic microscope on them.

It would be rather useful to see how many articles are written about a company and then be able to see if they are negative or positive, b)c I beg the ration for Tesla would be way negative.

>Tesla has roughly 33,000 employees globally but has never publicly released its diversity statistics.

100/33000 = 0.303% is representative of the company values.

I bet their are a ton of lawsuits against other major corporations that we do not hear about, but anything related to Elon Musk will cause a commotion.

This is poor journalism and sensationalism from Bloomberg.

Maybe they will interview one of their analysts and ask them for their analysis on the issue.

BLOOMBERG... Second.


0.3% not 0.003%


Good catch, apologies


I think that 100 number was people at the factory so you cant just assume that’s the entire company.


2/5 on your there/their/they're


He might not be a native English speaker. It does irk me a tad as well though. But if he's not a native speaker, the odds are low that we'd be able to communicate perfectly in their language. (Though I'm not a native speaker either)


Or maybe on mobile, my speech to text does not check the use case of " their/there/they're"

It also easier to be an asshole on the internet, rather than look at the content of the post =)


ha yeah, didn't even think of that reason! Well, either way, it's nothing to really complain about on the internet I suppose. Maybe mention it to a foreign speaker so they learn from it, otherwise just let it slide.

Next time I'll try to remember maybe it's just text to speech :P


I can not grasp why any company does this - I suspect that this is a union created kafuffle - for obvious reasons. Their fellow conspirators will all line up and swear, with no phone calls or e-mails to rat them out.

Strange that there were not earlier complaints - the employees all seemed very happy for the past many years.

Thus I vote for Musk's side in this argument.


I see lots of hate for Musk....


Here’s what appears to be the actual suit in question[0]. Though can’t verify As it’s not straight from the source.

At any rate, the allegations are pretty vague and seem like those of an ambulance chaser seeking. They are seeking a class action lawsuit on behalf of current and past African Americans who’ve ever worked there.

From quick skimming the Vaughn alleges he’s “heard people and supervisors say the Nigga or Nigger”. It doesn’t say exactly at who it was directed to if at all.

I know I’ll get downvoted for saying this, but the factory workers at Tesla for sure say those slang words and for sure listen to rap music.

I don’t think though that Tesla’s managers and executives are out on the floor running a plantation like Roots[1]

[0]www.civilrightsca.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/2017-11-13-Complaint-File-Stamped-Copy.pdf

[1]https://vimeo.com/1816274




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