Tesla is being accused of having cheap foreign labor build its new new paint shop at its Fremont, Calif. factory.
A report from Mercury News claims that workers from Eastern Europe, mostly from Croatia and Slovenia, were brought in to the U.S. using nonimmigrant visas for tourism and business, also called a B1/B2, and paid the equivalent of $5 an hour while their American counterparts were earning up to $52 an hour. The workers claim that this setup is not uncommon, with many of them saying that they have worked in other parts of the U.S. under the same terms.
This type of a work visa is alright for supervisory positions, but the workers were in charge of installing pipes and welding different parts, both hands-on jobs that are not allowed according to the terms of the B1/B2 visa. “We have concluded that there is widespread abuse of the B1 visa in the Bay Area,” Michael Eastwood, assistant district director of the San Jose area office of the U.S. Department of Labor told Mercury News.
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The issue is being brought to light thanks to Gregor Lesnik, an electrician from Slovenia who suffered a serious workplace injury while building Tesla’s new paint shop. Lesnik is now suing both Tesla and Eisenmann, the German company responsible for bringing in the foreign workers.
Tesla says that it had nothing to do with the hiring of the foreign labor, while Eisenmann also denied legal responsibility for the accident and for the working conditions. Both companies are now trying to removed from the lawsuit and have already won a preliminary effort to do so, though an Alameda County Superior Court judge allowed that Lesnik’s revised complaints about the working conditions have been allowed to go through.
Workers were housed in apartments with four or five roommates, while they were expected to work up to 10 hours a day and every other weekend with no overtime pay.
[Source: The Mercury News]