Tesla workers – to hell … and back?


FREMONT — Tesla CEO Elon Musk this month promised his company would deliver the new Model 3 to almost a half-million waiting customers, and guaranteed employees would go through “production hell.”

For many, it’s a return visit.

The company’s last stretch of manufacturing hyper-stress — the months leading up to the September 2015 delivery of the Model X — brought long hours, mandatory overtime and an 11 percent jump in worker time missed due to injury.

Injuries reported by workers also rose about 5 percent, well beyond auto industry averages, according to an analysis of federal statistics. Production workers say they’re concerned about the potential for more injuries and burnout, while earning less than the average autoworkers across the country.

“We had long hours. It took a toll on a lot of us,” said Michael Catura, a Tesla factory worker who started in April 2014. “I hope that we learn from the mistakes.”

Tesla executives say they made their share of mistakes — and aren’t eager to repeat them. The company has already re-engineered its work flow and made the Model 3 easier to assemble.

“While adding a new model to any factory is a huge challenge and a lot of hard work,” a company spokesman said, “meeting our production goals and ramping Model 3 will never take priority over making sure our workers are safe.”

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