In a race to get the long-awaited Model 3 production running as planned, Tesla quietly concealed the true number of workplace injuries at its Fremont, California assembly plant, according to a new report. This offsets reports the company made about a sharp drop in injuries and casts another shadow over the plans to reach mass production targets.
Tesla may have violated state law by failing to report these serious worker injuries, according to an investigation by Reveal and The Center for Investigative Reporting. These include reports of “sliced by machinery, crushed by forklifts, burned in electrical explosions and sprayed with molten metal,” the Reveal story states.
Injuries were reported by workers to supervisors or managers, but the complaints were dismissed. California law requires injuries sustained at the workplace to be reported, but Tesla reportedly used other ways to avoid reporting.
In a statement on the company’s blog Monday titled “A Not So Revealing Story,” Tesla denounced the Reveal story. The automaker accused the publication of harassing workers since last fall by phone or social media or even in the parking lot of the factory. The company said the story was based on misleading or inaccurate information, claiming it was motivated by parties that have been trying to unionize the plant. The automaker claims Reveal reporters have been harassing workers by phone and social media, as well as at their homes and on Tesla property.
“In our view, what they portray as investigative journalism is in fact an ideologically motivated attack by an extremist organization working directly with union supporters to create a calculated disinformation campaign against Tesla,” the company said in the post.
Tesla maintains that its injury rate at the Fremont factory is half of what it was a decade ago when General Motors and Toyota were operating the facility as NUMMI.
Reveal, which was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist in National Reporting Monday, said it reached out to Tesla for comment in its story. Its editor-in-chief, Amy Pyle, told The Verge that it did not agree with the automaker’s assessment of its story and stands by the accuracy of the piece.
“We always go to great lengths to talk to all stakeholders in a story and appreciate that Tesla allowed us to tour part of the plant and spent time reviewing and assessing documents related to our findings,” Pyle said in an email. “But we certainly did not stalk any employees as the company statement implies; they all talked with us willingly and for those who declined, we accepted that as well.”
Update at 7:55 PM ET: Adds statement from Reveal’s editor in chief.