Did Illegal Workers From Croatia and Slovenia Help Tesla Expand Its Factory in California?

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Tesla: U.S. senator requests investigation of foreign workers on construction project in California

San Jose, California, June 10, 2016

Today’s San Jose Mercury News published an article about US Senator Charles Grassley calling for an investigation of hiring practices by subcontractors in the building industry in the US. 

(see the whole article here)

The Senator’s call is in respnse to a previous article in the Mercury in May alleging that Slovenian and Croatian workers were brought in to the US with a B1 visa, on false pretences to do manual labour. Normally the B1 visa would be used for a specialist to train local staff or for a supervisory person with special knowledge to spend a few months working with US personnel. Ordinary building work, manual labour, and similar tasks are strictly forbidden under these visas.

(see the original May article here – by Louis Hansen, it is a definite must read)


There are no suggestions that Tesla did anything wrong. In this case, Tesla Motors contracted with Eisenmann, a Germany based manufacturer of industrial systems, to oversee Tesla’s expansion project. Eisenmann in turn contracted with a Slovenian company called ISM Vuzem to provide the workers. That would usually be a perfectly normal arrangement for construction projects.

However, any workers brought into the US need to come in on the correct type of visa, and it is specifically required to state that the incoming people will not perfoem any work that the US workforce is capable of doing. The allegations state that the Croatian and Slovenian workers brought in by Vusem were used for straight manual labour. No supervision of US workers or training of US workers is said to have taken place.

But more seriously, the allegations go further than just visa fraud. It is also alleged that the people brought in to the country were paid wages of $5 per hour, less than half of the legal minimum wage, and the workers were expected to work 70 or more hours a week. Meanwhile the subcontractors allegedly padded their profits by avoiding overtime, social security and workers compensation insurance contributions. Tesla was reportedly charged $55 per hour for the work performed. A tidy 1000% profit, if true.

The situation with the workers expanding Tesla’s factory in Fremont came to light when a Slovenian worker was seriously injured on the job.

The grass is not always greener of the other side. Potential workers need to take great care, or not only can they get exploited by their employers, but they can also end up in jail for immigration violations.





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