Update 1530 EST: In in a violation of California orders, Tesla began making cars again at its Fremont, California plant over the weekend despite an ongoing battle with local officials about whether it should remain closed during the pandemic, The Verge reports, adding that the company called back some of its workers and has completed around 200 Model Y and Model 3 vehicles.
This happened as CEO Elon Musk threatened on Twitter to move Tesla's operations out of state and sued Alameda County over its stay-home order.
Adding to the confusion, moments after the Verge report, Bloomberg reported that Cali Gov Newsom expects that the factory can resume work "next week":
NEWSOM SAID LOCAL `CONSTRUCTIVE TALKS' ON REOPENING CA FACTORY
NEWSOM" `BELIEF AND HOPE AND EXPECTATION' CAN OPEN NEXT WEEK
CA GOV SAYS HE EXPECTS TESLA FACTORY CAN RESUME WORK NEXT WEEK
So did Musk violate another prohibition, or did he simply rush ahead of the permitted date, well aware that every day of delays leads to tens of millions in cash burn?
But wait it gets even more interesting, because it appears that Newsom - having been put in a corner by both Musk and Trump - is now seeking to avoid the public glare, and is throwing Alameda county under the bus:
NEWSOM SAID HE SPOKE WITH ELON MUSK `A NUMBER OF DAYS AGO'
NEWSOM SAYS ANY ENFORCEMENT IS GOVERNED BY ALAMEDA COUNTY
NEWSOM: `I HAVE GREAT REVERENCE FOR THEIR TECHNOLOGY'
CA GOV SAYS HE'S BIG FAN OF TESLA COMPANY, TECHNOLOGY
As a reminder, the Tesla's Fremont factory has been closed since March 23rd, one week after Alameda County issued the initial stay-home order, and a few days after the governor of California issued a statewide version. The company had spent that intervening time trying to convince local officials that it should be allowed to keep making its electric cars because of Department of Homeland Security guidance that auto manufacturing is "national critical infrastructure."
While Alameda County officials said in a statement on Saturday that they were "communicating directly and working closely with the Tesla team on the ground in Fremont," and that the company was engaged in "a collaborative, good faith effort to develop and implement a safety plan that allows for reopening while protecting the health and well-being of the thousands of employees who travel to and from work at Tesla's factory", the county officials said they had still not reached an agreement with the company on whether it could reopen its factory. At the same time that the officials released their statement, Tesla sued the county over the stay-home order. Musk also threatened to move Tesla out of California because the plant would not reopen, and urged Tesla supporters on Twitter to "please voice your disagreement as strongly as possible with Alameda County.
As such it appears that Musk has rushed ahead of the Newsom statement, and decided to unilaterally resume production before being granted permission.
Workers who spoke to The Verge described difficult decisions they made about whether or not they should report in this week as their employer and CEO wages a public battle with local officials. Since they are both hourly workers, they won't be paid if they stay home. If they do go in, they will make less than they used to thanks to recent company-wide pay cuts. And while Tesla previously told its employees that they can use paid time off (PTO) days to stay home if they feel uncomfortable coming in, the company recently cashed out many of those workers' remaining PTO days because of the extended furlough.
"It's either we feed our families or go hungry at this point," said one, who decided to go into the factory.
The other is staying home. "I love my job personally, just tired of feeling like a chess piece," this person said. They also said they wouldn't feel safe assembling cars right now because it requires such close-quarters work. "We get lured in by the 'Tesla Dream' of saving the planet only to get treated so poorly that even though I love my job, I'm not willing to risk my health for him."