Hundreds walk off Tesla job in Nevada labor dispute

Union organizers say hundreds of construction workers walked off the job at the Tesla Motors manufacturing plant east of Reno to protest the increased hiring of out-of-state workers for less pay.

District 16 trades council spokesman Russell James says approximately 350 plumbers, carpenters, electricians and others walked away from the construction site Monday morning.

More than 100 picketed outside the main gate against what they say is an unfair labor practice that undermines promises to hire mostly Nevada workers in exchange for more than $1 billion in state tax breaks.

James says the work is increasingly being done by crews for the non-union, New Mexico-based Brycon Corp.

Tesla said in a statement it’s in compliance with requirements that Nevadans make up more than half of the workers hired by individual contractors. It said three-fourths of the entire “gigafactory” workforce is from Nevada.

Union says gigafactory construction delayed, Tesla disputes delay claims

Construction has been delayed at Telsa Motors’ gigafactory site east of Reno, according to a couple of union job postings.

Earlier this year, the national job board for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers updated its listing for “Project Tiger” — the initial code name for the gigafactory — to indicate a change in demand for electricians.

“The Tiger Project has been cut back by 80% at this time,” the IBEW post said. “This is all subject to change.”

Meanwhile, the local branch of the union in Reno also posted a message about the gigafactory on its job referral page. Several members said the message initially mentioned “Project Tiger” before it was updated.

“The major project in the area has been delayed at this time,” said the post on the IBEW Local 401 site. “Further updates will be posted as soon as we know more.”

The posts on both sites remain unchanged as of Thursday, March 4.

The common thread attributed to the delay is a change in design plans for the gigafactory, which started ramping up construction late last year. As a result, sources familiar with the situation at the site consider the current reduction more of a short-term hiccup that should not affect the project long term.

A spokesperson for Tesla Motors declined to comment on whether there has been a change in plans for the site when reached by phone, only saying that the project is fully mapped out and funded. Another spokesperson said claims about delays at the gigafactory site are flat out inaccurate.

“It would be incorrect to say that construction is delayed at the gigafactory site,” said Tesla spokeswoman Alexis Georgeson. “We are on schedule.”

Citing a non-disclosure agreement with Tesla Motors, a representative for IBEW Local 401 declined to comment about the postings when reached by the Reno Gazette-Journal by phone.

The Building & Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada also declined to provide specifics about the situation at the gigafactory, citing the non-disclosure agreement as well.

“I can confirm that there has been a reduction in hours and that’s all I can say,” said Paul McKenzie, secretary and treasurer of the Building & Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada.

The reported reduction is not affecting all aspects of labor. The Iron Workers Local 118 has done plenty of work at the gigafactory location, including the erection of a $15 million steel structure on the site that started in December. Iron Workers Local 118 declined to comment on the work situation on the site due to a non-disclosure agreement with Tesla. Several sources familiar with the project, however, say changes in plans are part of construction, especially for a facility as large as the gigafactory. Building a project in phases also means the need for various job crews can shift as demand changes, with certain phases of construction requiring more iron workers than electricians, for example.

The electricians union, meanwhile, lists 78 local members as having signed up for the inside journeyman wireman position for the gigafactory, describing their prospects as “promising.” It also has 379 out-of-state members signed up as well, although their prospects are described as “slow.” In order to receive $1.3 billion worth of incentives, Tesla is required to hire at least half of its construction workers from the state of Nevada.

Landing Tesla’s gigafactory has been described as one of the biggest wins in economic development history. Activity at the gigafactory site is already being credited for helping boost the Reno area’s construction industry, which lost more than 70 percent of its workforce during the recession.

Tesla Gigafactory construction in Reno Nevada still super secret and ahead of schedule

tesla site

STOREY COUNTY, Nev. ( & KRNV) — The Tesla construction site at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Park looks a lot different than it did six months ago. Back then there were earth movers grading, smoothing and preparing the ground for a 10-million square foot Gigafactory. There was a security gate with a sign identifying the site as “Project Tiger.” Today, the secrecy remains and so does the sign however, enormous steel beams are now rising out of the desert. The steel skeleton of the $5-billion dollar Gigafactory is now in place.


High winds blasted through the region halting heavy construction yesterday and today. The mix of dust, low visibility and heavy machinery was not a good combination. Developer Lance Gilman said, “We’re clocking winds out here measuring 70-to-80 miles an hour. Anywhere else in the country that would be called a hurricane and everybody would stay home from work. You know, we’re all still just out here doing our thing.”

Tesla-Gigafactory-570x277-56143Gilman said Tesla was allowing him to bring his prospects on a tour of the facility but not anymore. Gilman said, “They don’t want visitors. They pretty much put everyone in the company, their subcontractors, all of us in the county, on notice. They do not want visitors.” He added the facility contains proprietary components Tesla does not wany anyone to see up close.

Despite the wind, a Tesla spokesperson said construction is ahead of schedule. Gilman said that doesn’t surprise him. He added, “They’re all hands in the cook, if you don’t mind me using an old rodeo term. I mean they are very, very busy. I think there are 250 steelworkers alone here right now.”

Hookers and Tesla Motors = How Nevada Brothel owner helped seal Nevada’s Tesla deal

There are two ways to look at Lance Gilman of Storey County, Nev., the businessman whose Reno-area industrial center is set to house Tesla’s massive gigafactory.

To some, he is a major player when it comes to economic development in Nevada, a state that is still clawing its way out of a recession. To others, Gilman is also seen as a flesh peddler — he’s owner of the famous Mustang Ranch brothel, legally operated in Storey County just east of Reno.

INSIDE THE DEAL: $1.25 billion in tax breaks

Gilman is the principal and director of the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, billed as the largest industrial park in the world. As Storey County Manager Pat Whitten put it, Gilman is “the lead economic engine for Northern Nevada.”

Besides Tesla, he’s lured major companies to his park, which has become a cash cow of tiny Storey County. The park is located just outside the county limits of the Reno-Sparks metropolitan area and includes companies such as Kal-Kan, Wal-Mart, Dell Computers and Toys R Us. The industrial park is next to coast-to-coast interstate highway and rail systems, so it sells itself. Yet Gilman closes the deals.

BIG NUMBERS: The Tesla gigafactory, the land it will sit on

He is also an integral part of the negotiations to bring Tesla Motors’ $5 billion gigifactory project to the industrial park he represents.

Meanwhile, Gilman got into the brothel business about a decade ago with his Wild Horse Canyon Ranch brothel. He later bought the Mustang Ranch, which was previously owned by the notorious Joe Conforte — who escaped to Brazil to avoid federal prosecution for tax evasion.

When the Mustang re-opened under Gilman’s ownership in 2007, Conforte appeared via live video feed at a grand opening celebration to give a few words and pass the mantle off to Gilman.

When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told the Nevada Legislature in 2011 it was time to ban legal prostitution in Nevada, he did not mention Gilman by name, but it was apparent who he was speaking about.

After that speech, Gilman said he was the target of the majority leader’s concerns over businesses not coming to Nevada because of brothels, but added those concerns were overstated.

“I just read the speech and I am mystified at that quote,” Gilman said back in 2011. “It made it appear he is on the attack on Storey County and TRI.”

Gilman carries clout for another reason: he’s one of three Storey County commissioners, although some residents in the county seat of Virginia City will tell you Gilman doesn’t really live in the county.

Last summer, a Storey County jury awarded a $1.3 million judgment to investor Tom Gonzales, who contended Gilman and the Storey County government conspired to bamboozle him out of his share as as secret partner in the Mustang brothel. After winning the the jury’s verdict, Gonzales called for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate Gilman and the Storey County government.

Storey County District Attorney Bill Maddox called that allegation “b.s.,” but also acknowledged Gilman’s influence.

“In retrospect, we might have been manipulated,” he said in an interview earlier this year. “You could certainly conclude that from all that has happened, that the county might have been manipulated. If you want to quote me on that, go ahead. It’ll probably get me in trouble with Gilman, but so be it.”


“Last Friday I got tipped off that the Tesla battery gigafactory had broke ground east of Reno at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center.”

Tesla Lithium Ion Batteies

Denis Phares, CEO of Dragonfly Energy, holds a battery at his workshop in Reno, Nev. Right now, Dragonfly, which pays some of the rent as a middleman for selling China-made batteries online, is aiming for big-money backers to fund research into making lithium-ion batteries faster, cheaper and easier.

tesla motorsRENO, Nev. (KRNV & – A tech blog claims Tesla Motors has broken ground at a construction site in the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, and may have laid off construction workers yesterday. News 4 learns that is not the case.

The construction site is guarded, and is only identified by the name “Project Tiger.”

It is one of the largest projects moving dirt in the center, according to Lance Gillman, Director of the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center.

Due to a non-disclosure agreement, the contractors and brokers cannot confirm nor deny if the company behind the gates is Tesla Motors.

Gilman, says that workers were not laid off yesterday as some have claimed. The workers have been working day and night for the past few weeks.

Mark Twain at Tesla lab

Mark Twain at Tesla lab back in the day!

“They’ve reached the end of the first phase,” says Gilman. “And so I can tell you that there’s been a full mile long path built in about 3 and half weeks. And so the first phase of construction process is completed and there is a halt at this time.))
Gilman and two project managers tell News 4 they’ve been waiting on a week-by-week basis for the company behind “Project Tiger” to reveal their identity. Until then, it’s all speculation.

Nevada, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona are finalists for the $5 billion gigafactory. It’s estimated to create 6,500 jobs.

The owner, Elon Musk, has been quoted saying ground will be broken in at least two states before a final location is chosen.

A spokeswoman from Tesla Motors declined to comment.


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RENO, NV (07/25/2014)–Last Friday I got tipped off that the Tesla battery gigafactory had broke ground east of Reno at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center. I went out there on Sunday and sure enough, a huge construction site was in full operation with over 50 tractors leveling a building pad.

I shot a lot of photos on Sunday, again on Tuesday and very early morning hours of Wednesday.

Two articles about the project were published. A detailed piece that I wrote is posted at Transport Evolved. Also Greentech Media wrote up a piece for their website as well.

Last night we received word that the suspected gigafactory site east of town was shutdown and all of the employees were laid off because the project was too far behind schedule.

Sadly, two sources, close to the project, confirmed that construction was way behind schedule.

I believe the site east of town is/was a gigafactory site that may now be closed. I’m going out there tomorrow to confirm. The site was dark early this morning, but that doesn’t mean a lot (see the articles).

What is really down right scary is the fact that Elon Musk said, “What we’re going to do is move forward with more than one state, at least two, all the way to breaking ground, just in case there’s last-minute issues. The No. 1 thing is we want to minimize the risk timing for the gigafactory to get up and running.” (Bloomberg.)

To add to the concern, there will be a Tesla earnings call on Thursday, July 31st. Clearly, they plan to announce the gigafactory site(s).

I hate to read it this way–and there are many other possibilities–but it looks like two gigafactory sites are/were under construction to see which would performed the best: and Reno lost.

Note: Watch channel 8 tonight, they sent a reporter out there today.

What do you think?

See you all at the picnic!

Bob Tregilus

UPDATE: Ed Pearce, with KOLO TV, just called. He said the site is open, but there’s little activity going on and he saw some trucks leaving with large equipment loaded on trailers. 😦

Referenced articles:

Guest Post: Top-Secret Groundworks Outside Reno, NV Marks First Tesla Gigafactory Site by Bob Tregilus

RENO, NV–Every so often throughout the day, when Elon Musk’s attention wanders for a moment, he must giggle at the thought of how his company has mobilized thousands of legislators, bureaucrats, local officials, and a myriad of other stakeholders–across five states–all vying to win the “big prize”: a Tesla Motors’ battery Gigafactory.

There’s more >>>

DEVELOPING: Reno Locals Claim Workers Laid Off At Top-Secret Site Believed To Be Tesla Gigafactory Site by Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield

Yesterday, we brought you news that groundworks at a top-secret site allegedly being developed as Tesla’s first Gigafactory battery processing facility was under way in Reno, NV. After hiring what appears to be large numbers of workers to carry out ground work at the Taho-Reno Industrial Centre, work on the site has reportedly been running seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. What’s more, said Reno local Bob Tregilus, there was little doubt among people working there that the new project was part of a ‘big battery factory project’ and that the end client was none other than Tesla Motors. But overnight we’ve received reports from multiple sources in Reno claiming that the site has been either temporarily or indefinitely closed, and the workers laid off.

There’s more >>>

— Lithium-ion batteries are not exotic, complicated or big.

But if Tesla Motors locates a “gigafactory” here, the lipstick-sized batteries could change Reno’s whole universe.

An announcement isn’t expected for months about which among five states would ultimately land the electric car-maker’s battery factory, though Tesla is expected to start breaking ground on two or three spots this summer.

If northern Nevada ultimately wins the factory, the region will need a crash course in “li-ions,” (pronounced “lie-ions”) as they are known. Reno already has some experts.

Before Tesla was a gleam in Reno’s eye, Denis Phares was planning to make lithium-ion batteries here.

Phares formed Dragonfly Energy in 2012 and was joined soon after by partners Justin Ferranto and Sean Nichols. He’s a former USC instructor and current executive MBA student at University of Nevada, Reno. The partners have picked up several business-competition wins and will head to the Cleantech Open finals in October.

Right now, Dragonfly, which pays some of the rent as a middleman for selling China-made batteries online, is aiming for big-money backers to fund research into making lithium-ion batteries faster, cheaper and easier — and here.

“It’s the highest energy and power density combined of any energy-storage medium,” Phares said. Li-ions are also safer and longer-lasting than conventional batteries. That’s why Tesla uses them and wants more.

Dragonfly’s west Reno lab is strewn with battery parts, tools and tables. They’re developing streamlined methods to build their own lithium-ion batteries in Nevada — not specifically to power electric cars, but for electric power grid applications and as replacement batteries for lead-acid models currently used elsewhere.

Dragonfly has a patent pending for their more efficient battery-making system.

“The goal is to bring manufacturing back home,” Phares said.

Making a li-ion battery is easy. Essentially, anode and cathode foil strips are coated with lithium salt mixed with carbon and packed into a case. A reaction takes place, causing an electron to travel between anode and cathode, and voila: You’ve got power.

But there are challenges.

For example, getting lithium. Most of the metal is now mined in China, South America and Australia, said Russ Fields, director of UNR’s Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering.

It is mined underground, in open pits and from brines on salt flats, he said.

Potentially rich lithium sources have been identified in North America, though the only operating U.S. lithium mine is in Silver Peak, near Tonopah.

“It’s going to happen. The lithium is here,” Phares said. “We are not getting to it. But we will.”

Another challenge is the sheer number of battery cells needed for electric cars: 7,000 of the little blue tubes go into one Tesla Model S. That puts the “giga” in Tesla’s factory plans, which run to 10 million square feet.

Nearly all li-ion batteries, including those used in Tesla cars, are made in huge China plants. It’s too costly to produce them anywhere else.

“When you make things in high volume, you can get the cost down,” Phares said.

Far from being competition for Dragonfly’s efforts, a Tesla plant would draw even more energy-storage research and jobs to Northern Nevada, Phares said.

“There’s plenty of market out there,” he said.

His company is aiming for a different battery market: People replacing lead-acid batteries with li-ion models, and, eventually, producing viable energy-storage cells for the electric grid.

“Ultimately, if we’re going to get off of fossil fuels and start using intermittent sources like power and wind, there has to be an energy buffer that can power our houses when a cloud comes through or when the wind dies down,” Phares said. “There has to be a lot of energy storage to stabilize the grid for those intermittent resources.”

But if Elon Musk came calling on Phares and Dragonfly Energy?

“If he wanted to talk, we would talk.”