Tesla tells California employees to return to work in defiance of county orders

(Reuters) – Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) on Monday told employees at its California vehicle factory to return to work, a few days after local officials said the plant should remain closed as lockdown measures remain in effect to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

California Governor Gavin Newsom (L) and Tesla CEO Elon Musk (R) are seen in a combination photo. REUTERS/Mike Blake/Joe Skipper


The company referred to an order on Thursday by California’s governor allowing manufacturers to resume operations and said that as of Sunday, previously furloughed employees were back to their regular employment status.

“We’re happy to get back to work and have implemented very detailed plans to help you keep safe as you return,” the email seen by Reuters said.

Separately on Monday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said California should do whatever is necessary to help the electric carmaker reopen its only U.S. vehicle factory if it wants to keep the company in its state.

Health officials in Alameda County, where the Fremont factory is based, said on Friday and Saturday it must remain closed as long as local lockdown measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus remain in effect.

Tesla on Saturday sued the county, and Chief Executive Elon Musk threatened in a tweet to leave the state, where the company is among the largest employers and manufacturers, for Texas or Nevada.

“California should prioritize doing whatever they need to do to solve those health issues so that he can open quickly and safely or… he’s moving his production to a different state,” Mnuchin said in a CNBC interview.

Tesla’s lawsuit accused Alameda County of violating California’s constitution by defying state Governor Gavin Newsom’s orders on Thursday allowing manufacturers to reopen.

Alameda County and the governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.

A Texas official reached out to Musk on Twitter on Monday, saying his county was available immediately to accommodate Tesla and invited the billionaire CEO for a visit.

“We have a motivated, pro-business governor,” said Richard Cortez, county judge of Texas’ Hidalgo County. “What we no longer have is a shelter at home mandate.”

Musk in response tweeted: “Note is much appreciated.”

County judges in Texas have a wide range of judicial and administrative duties. Hidalgo County borders Mexico, where many U.S. automakers source supplies.

Tesla shares dropped 1.1% to $810.60 in late trading. They had fallen more than 3% premarket after China’s Passenger Car Association reported that the company’s Model 3 sales in April were down 64% on the month.

Reporting by Tina Bellon in New York; Editing by Richard Chang and Dan Grebler

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