The Mercury News has been keeping tabs on who is building the new Tesla factory in Fremont, California, since an investigation was launched by the Bay Area News Group writer Louis Hansen.
Hansen has uncovered a practice of paying foreign workers at an hourly rate that equals what they would make in their home country, not the $55 Elon Musk recently tweeted workers made.
The newspaper's investigation, "The Hidden Workforce Expanding Tesla's Factory," profiled Gregor Lesnik, a construction worker brought in from Slovenia to help build the new high-tech paint shop. Lesnik was seriously injured at the factory in May 2015. Lesnik and other eastern European workers had B1-B2 visas that specifically ban hands-on construction work.
Lesnik was hired by a subcontractor, ISM Vuzem, whose contract explicitly stated a $55 hourly labor rate. Instead, Lesnik was paid a monthly salary of 800 Euros, which translates to about $900 dollars a month. Based on a 40-hour work week, which records show Lesnik worked, his salary was about $5.60 per hour, not $55 per hour. And no overtime.
Other Vuzem workers were promised $12.70 per hour.
Tesla said it had acted legally but holds itself to a higher moral standard. The company said it would further probe the claims with Vuzem.
Read more on the exploitation of foreign workers in the Mercury News series here.