On Saturday, employees at Tesla’s Fremont plant received e-mails to come into work on April 29th, marking the first large employer in California that closed down during the coronavirus pandemic to reopen.
While Bay Area stay-at-home orders are currently in place until May 3rd, Tesla paint and stamping workers at the factory are to get around that. Tesla had previously announced a May 4th factory reopening, but due to demand, a bending Bay Area COVID-19 rate curve, and Tesla itself losing $300 million per week due to the shutdown, the date was moved up.
John, who works at the factory, said there have been mixed reactions to the early reopening.
“You know, on one hand, and lot of us have kids and we’re worried about any lingering spread here,” explained John to the Globe. “But it also means that we get to work again and that we don’t have to navigate through unemployment anymore.
As long as we take all the proper health precautions I think we’ll be ok. I don’t want to spread coronavirus at all, but the economy here is a train wreck.
Health precautions is the deciding factor for many of us. As long as we follow them we can safely resume work.”
Tesla had been largely against closing the Fremont plant last month. Despite Alameda County orders, the plant remained fully open until March 18th when the sheriff arrived to tell them they were in violation of breaking the order. By March 25th it had closed down completely. Tesla tried, and failed, to convince both the county and Fremont officials that the factory was an ‘essential’ business to no avail. Many had criticized Tesla Founder and CEO Elon Musk of putting the company in front of worker health.
The coronavirus restrictions being put aside a few days early by Tesla in favor of restarting the factory has been met by mixed reactions. Much like how many factory workers such as John have stated, it’s largely been split between those on the side of continuing public health restrictions and those in favor of bringing business and commerce back.
Currently Tesla will be the only automaker with a working factory until later in May when Hyundai, Toyota, and Volkswagen factories are scheduled to go back online. GM, Ford, and other car companies with workers under the United Auto Workers (UAW) union are likely not to open next month due to health concerns from the UAW.