Elon Musk resumed production at Tesla Inc.’s only auto plant in the United States, flouting county officials who ordered the company to remain closed and openly admitting that he was in danger of being arrested for himself and his employees.
“I will be online with everyone,” the general manager said in a tweet on Monday. “If someone is arrested, I ask that it be only me. “
After delaying a potentially costly defamation lawsuit and emerging with slight consequences from a legal battle with the Securities and Exchange Commission last year, Musk, 48, appears emboldened to try his luck again with the law. The main lawyer for Tesla’s trial against Alameda County in California on Saturday for reopening restrictions helped Musk defeat the case brought by a cave diver he called a pedophile in 2018.
This time around, Musk is fighting for measures to contain a virus he minimized from January. After claiming that Covid-19 was not a viral disease, and then panicking “stupid” in March, he also theorized that death rates are overestimated, promoting the anti-malarial drugs dubiously adopted by President Donald. Trump and wrongly predicted that new cases will be close to zero by the end of April.
Musk has been furious for weeks at the restrictions that county officials have placed on Tesla’s operations as part of their efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. On Saturday, he threatened to remove the California company headquarters and move it with future projects to Nevada or Texas. Tesla has approximately 20,000 employees in the San Francisco Bay area, about half of whom are in Fremont.
California Governor Gavin Newsom sought to ease tensions earlier Monday, saying he believed Tesla could start operating next week.
“It would be a sad day if the Fremont police entered Tesla and arrested Elon Musk,” said Scott Haggerty, the county supervisor for the district of Alameda where the Fremont Tesla plant is located. “The tweets that come and go are unfortunate, and we have to sit at the table, talk about our way and get people back to work safely. “
The Musk battle against Calfornia has come to represent the tense debate taking place in states and counties across America over how quickly companies should be allowed to reopen. For Musk supporters, he is a hero who fights against unnecessary government intervention. To his detractors, he is a reckless and impulsive leader who encourages dangerous behavior that could reverse efforts to quell the pandemic.
“I don’t think Musk can just go against the local health system, which is more restrictive than the state health system,” said Haggerty, who has represented the region for 23 years.
Tesla told production workers before Musk’s tweet that he would get back to work at the Fremont plant. Valerie Capers Workman, Tesla North American Human Resources Manager, sent an email to production staff to let them know that their leave ended on Sunday and that managers will contact them within 24 hours with their start date and their calendar. Those who are not comfortable returning to work may remain at home on leave without pay but may no longer be eligible for unemployment benefits, she said.
The email contradicted Newsom’s remarks at the governor’s daily press briefing, which took place before Musk’s tweet. Asked about Tesla’s reopening of the Fremont plant, regardless of Alameda’s order, Newsom said he was unaware.
“I understand they had very constructive conversations,” said Newsom. “My belief, my hope and my expectations are from next week, they can resume. “
Tesla sued the county over the weekend after informing the company that it did not meet the criteria for reopening. Newsom, which authorized restart of manufacturing in parts of the state on May 8, said Monday that the county was allowed to apply tougher rules for reopening. Health officials from Alameda and six other counties and cities in the San Francisco Bay area decided late last month to extend their restrictions on businesses until the end of May.
Verte Green light ’
After Musk’s tweet, Alameda County health officials released a statement saying that Tesla’s Fremont plant was operating beyond what was allowed and that it hoped the company would “comply without other implementing measures ”. The county has engaged in ongoing dialogue on employee medical screening procedures and has said it will continue to review Tesla’s plans.
Capers Workman told employees that the state has “given the green light to resume manufacturing.”
Musk tweeted over the weekend that Alameda’s refusal to let Tesla reopen the Fremont plant was “the final straw” and that he would immediately move Tesla’s headquarters to Nevada or Texas.
Newsom said on Monday that the state has a strong relationship with Tesla, calling it “a business that the state has supported widely for many years now.” Musk then thanked the governor in a tweet.
Despite all of his boastfulness, Musk’s fortune has surged with Tesla’s actions this year. His personal wealth increased by $ 12.6 billion in 2020 to more than $ 40 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires index.
“We have a culture in our state where these huge corporations run by billionaires” act quickly and break things down, “” tweeted Lorena Gonzalez, a woman from the California Assembly. ” Rules. Orders. Laws. People. All this without consequence. ”
(Updates to Musk’s previous legal battles in the third paragraph)
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