‘The final straw’: Musk threatens to move Tesla HQ from California

11 May 2020

Image: © Tobias Arhelger/Stock.adobe.com

Tesla took legal action after local officials refused to let the company reopen its Fremont factory due to shelter-in-place orders.

On Saturday (9 May), electric vehicle maker Tesla filed a suit against Alameda County, California, after local officials refused to allow the company to reopen its Fremont factory.

According to Bloomberg, Musk emailed Tesla employees indicating that the factory would reopen as early as Friday (8 May). Tesla said that it wanted to ramp up “limited operations” at its Fremont facility, despite a shelter-in-place order in Alameda County.

However, officials in the county said that the automaker could not yet reopen under the current Covid-19 restrictions. The county’s shelter-in-place order is expected to continue until the end of May, with only essential businesses allowed to open.

In a series of tweets, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that he is considering moving the company’s headquarters to Texas or Nevada, where there are fewer restrictions in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“Frankly, this is the final straw,” he wrote. “Tesla will now move its HQ and future programmes to Texas/Nevada immediately.”

The lawsuit

After a livestreamed town hall meeting on Friday, Alameda County warned that Tesla would be violating county rules if it reopened on Friday as intended.

The Alameda health department told CNN: “This has been a collaborative, good faith effort to develop and implement a safety plan that allows for reopening while protecting the health and wellbeing of the thousands of employees who travel to and from work at Tesla’s factory.

“The team at Tesla has been responsive to our guidance and recommendations, and we look forward to coming to an agreement on an appropriate safety plan very soon.”

On Saturday, Tesla published a blogpost where it argued that it is a “national critical infrastructure” business that should be reopened, while describing its plan to get employees back to work.

“The county’s position left us no choice but to take legal action to ensure that Tesla and its employees can get back to work. We filed a lawsuit on 9 May asking the court to invalidate the county orders, to the extent the county claims they prevent Tesla from resuming operations.”

The political response

Republican senator Ted Cruz weighed in on the matter, saying Texas would “welcome Tesla” if it opened a HQ in Texas. “We love jobs and Texans very much,” Cruz tweeted. “We make lots of cars and trucks in Texas, and we’d love more!!”

Meanwhile, Democratic state politician Lorena Gonzalez of California, who has previously spoken out against Uber and Lyft on behalf of workers, tweeted: “F*ck Elon Musk.”

“California has highly subsidised a company that has always disregarded worker safety and wellbeing, has engaged in union busting and bullies public servants. I probably could’ve expressed my frustration in a less aggressive way. Of course, no one would’ve cared if I tweeted that.”

Musk responded to Gonzalez by writing: “Message received.”

Musk’s tweets

Since Covid-19 has reached the US, Musk has been tweeting what CNN described as “debunked and controversial coronavirus claims”, going against the guidance of health officials and local shelter-in-place orders.

Other publications have described Musk’s tweeted opinions about the coronavirus as “dangerously wrong” and have warned that the CEO is spreading misinformation to his platform of 34m Twitter followers.

In a tweet on Saturday about the factory reopening dispute, Musk wrote: “Tesla is filing a lawsuit against Alameda County immediately. The unelected and ignorant ‘Interim Health Officer’ of Alameda is acting contrary to the governor, the president, our constitutional freedoms and just plain common sense!”

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic