We already know that Elon Musk is an incredible innovator and revolutionary. Nevertheless, he’s proven once again that he is at the forefront of business rebellion.
When California Governor Gavin Newsom shut the state down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses deemed ‘non-essential’ went along with it, even if some were kicking and screaming. But, as time went on and local and state rules on sheltering in place and social distancing became more aggressive, if not downright draconian, people and businesses have started to rebel.
Here in Orange County, our biggest (public) beef was our parks and beaches. In Alameda County, which is where Tesla’s Fremont factory is based, there was a bigger beef - one spearheaded by a business mogul who wasn’t going to take it any more. Despite the county’s order, which prevented non-essential businesses to re-open, Elon Musk stuck his middle finger in the air and re-opened for business.
In a tweet on Monday, Musk said he would be at the factory “on the line with everyone else” and even asks to be arrested.
Now, I’ve always respected Musk as an innovator and businessman, but I now have a whole new respect for him.
Like many owners of ‘non-essential’ businesses both large and small who have become increasingly frustrated with the dragging out of closures and loss of income, Musk spit in the face of a Alameda County officials, and put his people back to work. In a lawsuit he filed a lawsuit against the county, Musk alleges that the shutdown is both unconstitutional and “inexplicable” and ignores an order from Newsom, which permits businesses in “16 crucial infrastructure industries,” including transportation, to continue work.
One could argue this is all for Musk’s bottom line. Considering Q1 2020 was Tesla’s third consecutive profitable quarter, he really only had the month of April to contend with. Reopening now could likely help recover any losses. Since the initial reports of plant reopening came to light, Tesla stock is up more than 10%.
This is not just about Musk. The Fremont plant employs more than 10,000 people. In 2017, Tesla created 51,000 jobs in California. He is willing to roll up his sleeves and stand on the line with everyone else he employs even while fears of the coronavirus still fester.
I’m sure there are plenty of Tesla employees who are legitimately concerned about going back to work. I’m in no position to say what measures Tesla has put in place to ensure the safety of its workers. A press release by the Alameda County public health department indicates that they’ve been “communicating directly and working closely with the Tesla team on the ground in Fremont. This has been a collaborative, good faith effort to develop and implement a safety plan that allows for reopening while protecting the health and well-being of the thousands of employees who travel to and from work at Tesla’s factory.”
Musk forced their hands. Had he not reopened his factory, this type of collaboration likely wouldn’t have happened. The factory would have remained closed indefinitely until the county deemed it was safe to open. It turned into a pissing match that Elon Musk clearly won. Threatening to take his business out of California all together only bolstered his position.
With 20.5 million jobs lost in April, and the unemployment rate soaring to 14.7% — the highest since the great depression- due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I personally think it’s time for all business owners to take a similar stance, open their business, and be bold enough to face the legal consequences.
The ones who still hold on to a picture of everyone turning into the Walking Dead will argue that sending people back to work will only cause more people to die. These are people who likely have no problem with stores like Walmart and Costco remaining open this whole time and people working there with protective measures in place. Why shouldn’t other businesses open under the same guidelines and measures?
By reopening his factory now, Elon Musk has shown unparalleled leadership. He had faith in his beliefs and didn’t waver. He made the difficult choice to enhance the lives of those around him, and not just his employees; his employees’ families also rely on him for their livelihoods. He demonstrated ambition for the company he’s built. Most of all, he lead by example.
Elon Musk just threw down the gauntlet for business owners across America to reopen their businesses and our economy. He is definitely leading the charge. I hope more will follow.