By Mike Talavera
Electric car manufacturer Tesla announced this week that it would be taking the $60+ million tax break deal from Travis County and the Del Valle School District to build a $1.1 billion “Gigafactory.” The politicians and officials who made the deal, whose careers stand to benefit from securing one of the biggest development projects in Central Texas history, did so over the protests of residents, who voiced their opposition to Tesla and the company’s well-documented track record of dangerous workplaces, environmental devastation, and breaking up unions.
Anxious to escape the California lockdown that shut down the main Tesla factory in Fremont for two months, Tesla owner and billionaire Elon Musk said on Wednesday that construction plans had already been initiated on the 2,100 acre site at the intersection of Texas Highway 130 and Harold Green Road. Despite pandemic-related difficulties, Musk also announced that Tesla turned a profit of $104 million this quarter, and he stands to receive a stock award of nearly $2 billion.
The Del Valle Gigafactory promises to expand Musk’s fortune even more as it will pay new employees extremely low wages compared to the automaking average. $15 an hour, which Tesla claims will be a base wage, long ago became inadequate to survive in most major American cities. Capitalists reap profit as parasites through only paying workers a fraction of what they produce, and Tesla has ensured this by keeping its workforce desperate and disorganized.
Some of the workers at the Tesla Gigafactory near Reno, Nevada are homeless. Tesla workers in California faced intimidation and retaliation when they tried to form a union.
Contrary to the lip service paid by the capital-serving politicians who applaud the “sorely needed” jobs the factory will bring, Musk has made it clear that the factory is not for the working class or the nearby poor residents of Del Valle – it’s for the same gentrifiers whom the city of Austin has accommodated by approving other luxury playground projects like the Domain on Riverside.
“We are going to make it a factory that is going to be stunning,” Musk said. “It is right on the Colorado River. So we are actually going to have a boardwalk where there will be a hike and biking trail. It is basically going to be an ecological paradise — birds in the trees, butterflies, fish in the stream. And it will be open to the public as well, so not closed and only open to Tesla.”
In other words, a paradise for the rich, at the expense of the poor.