When construction on the massive Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] Gigafactory finishes later this year, it will not only become the world’s largest lithium-ion manufacturing and reprocessing facility but also the world’s largest building, encompassing a massive 10 million square feet of space across two stories.
It is there that Tesla hopes to build upwards of 70 gigawatt-hours of lithium-ion battery cells per year by 2020, and more than 100 GWh per year of total lithium-ion battery pack output in the same time frame. Raw materials will enter the facility on one side alongside used lithium-ion battery packs from existing Tesla electric cars, and fully-finished battery cells and battery packs will exit on the other.
So far, construction at Tesla’s first Gigafactory site in Reno, NV has continued apace without any major problems. Indeed, according to Tesla’s most recent reports, the Gigafactory should be completed ahead of schedule.
But as Bloomberg reported on Monday, a walkout involving at least 100 construction workers at the Gigafactory site could slow things down a little.
Union representatives for those striking say that they are protesting the use of workers from out of state in preference to local construction staff.
“It’s a slap in the face to Nevada workers to walk through the parking lot at the job site and see all those license plates from Arizona and New Mexico,” Todd Koch, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada told Bloomberg, adding that there were hundreds of people on site but that many had walked out.
This isn’t the first time the Tesla Gigafactory has come under the spotlight for employment practices. Last year, the Reno Gazette-Journal published an interview with Mike Kazmierski, CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada in which the paper claimed Tesla would be paying Gigafactory workers an average salary of just $25 per hour. At that time, a Tesla spokesperson dismissed those claims, noting that while Tesla wouldn’t specifically comment on current or future employee compensation, it had submitted an application to the State of Nevada which included projections of average hourly wage costs for its operational workforce that were informed by regional wage trends.
In the interests of fairness however, we should also point out that the Reno Gazette-Journal and Tesla Motors aren’t exactly friends: last year, Tesla had RGJ employees arrested and prosecuted for assault after they were caught trespassing on site.
Speaking to Bloomberg Tesla, says the on-site walkout by members of the Carpenters Union is part of a protest about the hiring of a third-party non-union construction contractor. The company in question? Brycon Corp., a construction firm based in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Keeping with normal contractor practice, Brycon has brought with it many of its regular employees, resulting in high numbers of out-of-state workers.
When Tesla announced the Gigafactory would be built in Nevada back in 2014, it came with a massive deal from the state of Nevada that guaranteed Tesla more than $1.25 billion in tax breaks and abatements over the next twenty years. That deal was made with the expectation that Tesla’s Gigafactory would be a major boost to the local economy through hiring local staff. Indeed, of the 6,500 or more staff that will be employed at the completed Gigafactory, half must go to Nevada locals in order for the deal to be honored.
It’s unlikely the walkout will dramatically impact Gigafactory construction schedules, but we’ll keep a close eye on this dispute to see if that changes in the coming weeks.
Hat-tip: Bob Tregilus
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