New York Times: African-Americans faced racism at Tesla plant

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New York Times: African-Americans faced racism at Tesla plant

Tesla is facing more criticism and backlash after an article from The New York Times released on Friday reporting multiple instances of various types of racist harassment at the Fremont, California, factory. The piece discusses racist comments and effigies aimed at African-Americans, racial discrimination regarding job assignments and advancements, and harassment toward people of color, as well as Tesla’s refusal to acknowledge the issues as a wide-reaching trend.

Including employees and contractors, the factory has some 15,000 workers. Tesla says more than 66 percent of production leads are non-white, but it would not break down the specifications any further. Taking into account multiple sources reviewed by The Times, there have been dozens of instances and complaints dealing with some form of racism.

One of the starkest accounts comes from a contractor named Owen Diaz. He says he was not only called a racial slur but has also seen swastikas in the bathrooms and witnessed a racist drawing on a bale of cardboard that a supervisor claimed was a joke. His son, who also worked at the factory in a different production area, experienced similar treatment and witnessed similar graffiti.

In a separate incident, an African-American electrician named DeWitt Lambert also faced aggressive and threatening treatment due to the color of his skin. According to the report, small taunts turned into repeated slurs. Even after moving to a different area in the factory, the harassment followed. Lambert sent human resources several pieces of evidence, including a video recording made by somebody who took Lambert’s phone at the facility. In it, the person talking threatens to “cut you up … so everybody can have a piece of you, n*****.”

After filing a report, Lambert received a settlement offer of $100,000 from Tesla. He declined, hoping to push the claim to trial. Tesla, however, was able to get the case to arbitration, and he was terminated for acts “inconsistent with Tesla’s values” because he had used the word with other African-Americans. The article has several stories and much more detail on these instances.

Unfortunately, that piece was not the only article detailing tolerated racism in automotive plants this week. A report from the Detroit Free Press details similar treatment toward African-Americans at a General Motors factory. In this piece, a worker named Mark Edwards says he faced slurs and harassment on a regular basis and even encountered a noose left at his workplace. That full report can be read here.

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