Tesla Tantrum: Elon Musk opposes lockdown measures by vowing to move Tesla factory out of California

May 30, 2020

3 min read

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What's going on here?

Elon Musk has vowed on Twitter to move the Tesla factory out of California as a response to the state’s strict lockdown measures.

What does this mean?

Tesla’s US factory in Alameda County, California paused its operations when its local government introduced orders demanding to keep all but essential businesses closed. This measure was not welcomed by Elon Musk. He tweeted his intent to reopen the Fremont plant, as well as  his distaste for the measure. He has since sued Alameda County and won. 

He has threatened to move all Tesla operations out of California and into Nevada or Texas. This statement has garnered positive reactions from politicians outside of California, who have expressed their interest in this move. President Donald Trump tweeted his support of Musk, urging California to ease lockdown measures.   

The local authority has agreed to let Musk reopen the plant in Fremont provided Tesla adheres to strict social distancing measures.

What's the big picture effect?

Elon Musk’s statement on Twitter has gathered significant publicity in the context of recent US-wide lockdown measures. This comes shortly after he criticised lockdown measures for being “fascist”. Musk’s remarks come at the same time as growing discontent in the US with the coronavirus prevention measures. Some have taken to the streets to stage protests against the measure.  Such protests have caused an even deeper political rift in an already divided US. 

Many states have started moving towards easing the lockdown. In the past week, almost all businesses have been reopening as state lockdown measures come to an end. This has resulted in mixed responses from the public, health and state officials. Many members of the public don’t feel safe enough to return to “business as usual”, despite the lockdown being eased. Dr Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s expert on infectious diseases, has expressed concern about reopening states too soon. His recommendation was to only ease the lockdown until states saw a significant decrease in cases over 14 days. 

Musk’s legal success is representative of the power dynamic between the government and big companies. US politicians are notoriously eager to attract and maintain major financial hubs. They are incredibly profitable and attract new jobs and development for communities. When Amazon announced its plans to open a new headquarters in Queens, New York, the decision was highly commended by state officials, including Governor Andrew Cuomo. The people of Queens were not as ready to welcome Amazon. The deal was called off due to strong opposition from the Queens community, most notably rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. The refusal was backed by arguments against gentrifications and public subsidies for private companies. The US government has built a reputation for supporting and subsidising companies to the extent of exempting them from laws and regulations, and the recent Tesla win seems to be no exception. . 

There has also been an increase in litigation. A significant amount of businesses have followed in Tesla’s footsteps. Many have sued their local authorities in an effort to allow them to function during the crisis. They are claiming an infringement on their constitutional rights following the forced closure of their business. This signals a great challenge that awaits lawyers at the end of the Coronavirus crisis – balancing the legal implications of states exercising their right to act to protect the public good no matter the consequences, weighed against the rights of the individual. 

Report written by Andreea Dicu

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