Hey Elon Musk: Pay Your Workers

by Shanley Kane on April 22nd, 2020

Via Silicon Valley Rising: 

… you’ve told over 130 of your shuttle drivers and another 130 janitors at your Fremont plant that you will pay them nothing during the shutdown. You’ve left these workers scrambling to figure out how they will pay the bills.

At the same time, Tesla’s share price has gone up 54% since April 1st. Just since the start of this year, you’ve made over $8.5 billion as Tesla’s stock has risen. As you are profiting, the families of the workers you’ve let go are suffering.

Elon Musk has had a wild ride in the days of COVID-19: he’s tweeted that “panic” about the virus is overblown; shipped “ventilators” to hospitals (these turned out to be sleep apnea machines that can’t be used to treat COVID patients); and refused to comply by shelter in place orders to keep his factory open and producing. Like much of Silicon Valley’s top brass, he’s not missing a beat on inserting himself into a global health crisis for which he possesses no qualifications. Meanwhile, Silicon Valley Rising (we interviewed them a few years back) has found that Tesla has let 260 workers go without pay during the COVID-19 crisis. 

As Silicon Valley Rising organizer Maria Noel Fernandez has pointed out, these professionals are members of tech’s “invisible workforce”, primarily people of color who already get kept out of tech’s high-paying salaries and equity — a huge part of the compensation picture, particularly at “unicorn” startups like Tesla. As more data has come in about how the virus is affecting Americans, it’s particularly concerning that these very groups are the ones who are experiencing the highest mortality rates. 

Tesla’s decisions are entirely consistent with its history. Highlighting his disdain and hatred of workers, Musk is a known union-buster. He’s fired organizers and made long anti-union rants on Twitter

Further, Musk’s behavior is perfectly in line with that of other tech mega-corps; at Amazon, Jeff Bezos has been giving out seemingly extraordinary charitable gifts while firing employee organizers and only budging marginally to accommodate worker demands as they struggle to keep themselves safe in unprecedented times. Meanwhile, tech stock is relatively sheltered in the face of COVID-19’s effects, even benefitting — Amazon’s share price is now higher than it has ever been and Tesla’s stock is way up, too

While COVID-19 has thrown the tech world’s “invisible workforce” into sharp relief, it’s also proving to be a key moment for resistance.

Sign the Silicon Valley Rising petition here to demand Elon Musk pay his workers during COVID-19. #PayYourWorkersElon