Tesla workers rally, call for health department protections during COVID-19 pandemic

Tesla workers rallied outside Alameda County Public Health Department on Thursday. They want the county to protect workers at the company's Fremont plant during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Workers said some who are vulnerable or who have vulnerable family members have been fired because they are concerned about returning to work. 

They also said there are not enough Cal/OSHA inspectors to follow up on complaints about unsafe working conditions. 

Worker Carlos Gabriel said officials should be holding Tesla accountable. He is among the organizers of Thursday's rally. 

“There are people we are paying to keep us safe, and they’re just turning the other cheek,” Gabriel said. 

In the past Tesla has said it encourages employees to stay home if they are sick and has taken steps to guard against the coronavirus at its factory. 

However, last week Washington Post reported two Tesla employees were fired after being allowed to stay home for fear of contracting COVID-19. 

A Tesla spokesman would not comment this week, but company officials said at a public hearing on tax incentives in Texas last week that claims of Fremont workers being fired are untrue. 

Gabriel and another Tesla worker claim to know of COVID-19 cases among workers at the Fremont factory, but that Tesla won't tell them the specific numbers. 

The workers at the rally want Alameda's health department to release numbers and to trace whoever came in contact with sick workers rather than letting Tesla do it.

Associated Press interviewed one worker who has returned to work and said many employees do not wear masks that cover their nose and mouth, or remove them. In addition, they do not always practice safe social distance guidelines when they go outside. The employee said he had to return to work because he needed the medical insurance. 

Associated Press contributed to this story.