According to internal emails first reported by BuzzFeed and CNBC, Tesla has told its workers that they can take a June 19 holiday in “unprovoked absence” because some employees were already working at the factory during the festival, which recognized the end of slavery in the United States. The company also told employees that they would not be paid if they didn’t come.
Just after the report was published, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter that June 19 would be “considered a U.S. holiday for Tesla and SpaceX from now on” but that employees would have to use a paid vacation they assigned, saying “many other holidays are the same.”
Other Silicon Valley companies such as Spotify, Uber and Twitter have also announced June 19 as paid holidays. Automakers such as Ford and General Motors simply asked their workers to observe a moment of silence.
Both emails came after Valerie Workman, Tesla’s head of North American human resources, began some shifts Friday morning. In the first email, she wrote that the company “fully supports any U.S. employee who wants to celebrate, reflect, or participate in events that are meaningful to you during the June 19 holiday.” Soon after, Workman sent another email (titled “JUNETEENTH!”) ), said that if the workers do not come, they will not be paid.
The emails came just days after a small group of employees announced a “June Day” rally at Tesla’s Fremont plant in California to protest police brutality and call for funding for police. One reason the employees raised the rally was that they felt That Workman and Tesla had not done enough to protest protests across the United States and around the world in the wake of the recent killing of George Floyd. According to a copy obtained by The Verge, Workman sent an email to Tesla employees on June 9 announcing a “listen to understanding” series, saying she would “bring us together, listen to our colleagues’ stories, share learning resources, and help people better understand new perspectives.”
Tesla has been faced with more than one lawsuit from a former employee who claims to have been racially discriminated against at the company’s California and New York plants. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the email, nor did it respond to protests scheduled for Friday.
Tesla reopened its Fremont plant in May. Since then, the company has been working to increase production of the Model Y SUV, which began shipping ahead of the shutdown. In an email to employees earlier this month, Musk said that producing more Model Y would “really make a difference to Tesla now.”