Jose Moran commutes more than an hour from California's Central Valley to Tesla Inc.'s Fremont factory every morning for a shift that usually starts around 5:25 a.m. and ends in the late afternoon. His Thursday was anything but typical.
The 43-year-old father of two started the day passing around copies of his post on the publishing service Medium, which called for forming a union at Tesla's lone auto assembly plant. By the evening, CEO Elon Musk was criticizing Moran and the UAW in Twitter messages with a tech blog.
Moran alleged challenging working conditions and organizational issues within a factory under the microscope like never before. The plant is preparing to make the Model 3, Tesla's first affordable electric car and the linchpin of Musk's ambitions to reach the mainstream auto market. The CEO went on the defensive Thursday, writing in direct messages to Gizmodo that Moran may have been paid by the UAW to push for a union at Fremont.
"I've been a loyal employee of Tesla for 4 1/2 years, sometimes working six days a week, 12 hours a day," said Moran, a production associate on Body Line 1 within the factory. "I'm not an employee of the UAW, but we get support from the UAW. For Musk to try to trash me down like that -- it's too bad."