Elon Musk Apologizes For Paying Tesla Workers $5 An Hour To Build A Body Shop

(REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon)

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Techno-wonder and CEO of Tesla Motors Elon Musk apologized and promised to investigate allegations the electric vehicle maker paid foreign workers a wage of $5 per hour to slap together a paint shop in California.

Musk’s electric vehicle company used approximately 140 Eastern Europeans to erect a body shop in Northern California as part of the production line for its new, wallet-friendly Model 3 sedan.

The workers were hired by Eisenmann, a German-based manufacturer, and received hourly wages as low as $5, which dwarfs the $52 an hour plus $42 an hour in benefits and pensions that most sheet metal workers receive, according to a report by the Bay Area News Group.

Musk tweeted his dismay at the cheap labor his subcontractors were paid: “Only heard about this today. Sounds like the wrong thing happened on many levels. Will investigate and make it right.”

One of the subcontractors, Gregor Lesnik, an electrician from Slovenia, alleges in a lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court, that he suffered injuries while constructing Tesla’s body shop after falling three stories from a roof, bouncing off scaffolding and landing on the company’s factory floor.

The lawsuit claims that after Lesnik’s injury, ISM Vuzem, a Slovenian company responsible for recruiting him, tried to get him out of the U.S. as quickly as possible. “They did so because of the multiple legal problems including … visas, housing, working conditions,” the lawsuit claims.

Workers at the site toiled seven days a week, mostly working 10-hour shifts, in order to build the shop, according to the suit. They claim they were paid for only 40 hours a week, and weren’t paid overtime for the extra work hours they put in.

Lesnik’s attorneys have estimated that foreign workers are owed nearly $2.6 million in wages, as well as other compensation.

Tesla and Eisenmann were initially excluded from the lawsuit, but a judge allowed Lesnik’s complaint to proceed.

Tesla issued a statement on Monday in response to the reports.

“We are taking action to address [Lesnik’s] situation and to put in place additional oversight to ensure that our workplace rules are followed even by sub-subcontractors to prevent such a thing from happening again.”

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