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Shareholders ask for Tesla factory work environment changes in Buffalo

Posted at 12:00 AM, Sep 23, 2020

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — This past year couldn't have been much better, financially, for Tesla shareholders. The company's stock was around $50 at this time last year. It approached $500 a share just a few weeks ago.

Not everyone is happy with the way the company is being run, especially in Buffalo.

“We've noticed really clear patterns that workers of color, and particularly workers of color who were talking about racism in the plant, were targeted for layoffs,” said Linnea Brett with the Clean Air Coalition of WNY.

Tesla just held its annual shareholder's meeting. CEO Elon Musk talked about the company's future. But before that, the treatment of workers at the Gigafactory in Buffalo was discussed.

Shareholders voted on two proposals that dealt with the way workers are treated at the facility. One proposal would have Tesla consider ending the use of arbitration.

“Arbitration allows bad corporate behavior by allowing harassment and discrimination to continue, hidden from employees and investors,” said Kelly Hall, with Nia Impact Capital.

The other proposal calls for the company to prepare a report on how they manage human rights, including in Buffalo.

“Racism, sexual harassment and disregard for human safety and dignity harm workers at Gigafactory II in Buffalo, N.Y. every single day,” explained Terrence Collingsworth with International Rights Advocates.

Of the two shareholder proposals that involved the Buffalo plant, both, on a preliminary basis, were voted down.

The Clean Air Coalition of WNY is working with Tesla workers. The group is calling on the state to look into the conditions at the factory.

“Because Tesla is not going to hold itself accountable, and at this point, shareholder groups have done more to show up for workers in Buffalo than the state of New York,” said Brett.

The Tesla board recommended shareholders vote down the two proposals.

In regards to arbitration, the company wrote "the proponent does not state convincing support for a correlation between arbitration and harassment, discrimination..."

The company believes they cover human rights issues in their impact report.