Activists in Texas are worried Tesla will exclude Spanish-speaking workers from its new factory

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Activists in Texas are worried Tesla will exclude Spanish-speaking workers from its new factory
Workers assemble Tesla vehicles. David Butow/Getty Images
  • Activists worry that Tesla's new Texas plant lacks jobs for Spanish speakers, Axios Austin reports.
  • Travis County has a large Hispanic population.

Tesla's sprawling Texas factory is set to open for business this year, bringing thousands of jobs to the Austin metro area. But some local activists are concerned about a lack of opportunities for Spanish-speaking workers, Axios Austin reported Wednesday.

Texas Anti-Poverty Project is pressing the electric-car maker to do more to accommodate locals who only speak Spanish, its founder, Ofelia Maldonado Zapata, told the outlet. During a meeting between Travis County officials and Tesla representatives, the company said it does not offer bilingual staff to translate for Spanish-speaking plant workers.

"We all found out - even the county did not know - that [Tesla said] basically, 'We don't hire Spanish speakers,'" Zapata told Axios. "It's like what? How can you build a plant in an area that is high [in] Spanish speakers when they're probably the ones building the plant."

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Roughly a third of Travis County residents are Hispanic, according to the US Census Bureau.

Zapata, a trustee of the Austin Independent School District, did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. Tesla and Travis County did not respond to requests for comment.

Tesla is working with Zapata's group to establish a program to teach workers English, but she says it's not enough. Down the line, the anti-poverty group wants to play a part in negotiating and enforcing incentives for companies moving to Texas, Axios reported.

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It's not the first time that Tesla's ambitious plans for vehicle plants have butted up against local culture and activists.

In Germany, where work on a massive plant to supply the European market is underway, Tesla has sparred with environmental groups concerned about the factory's impact on water supply and wildlife. It may also face resistance from Germany's powerful auto workers union.

The news also comes as Tesla's treatment of workers of color is in the spotlight. Earlier in October, Tesla was ordered to pay $137 million to a Black employee who said he faced racist harassment during his stint at the company's Fremont, California, factory.

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Days after the verdict, Tesla shareholders approved a proposal asking the company to release additional information about its diversity and inclusion efforts each year. They voted against the board's recommendation, a rare occurrence.

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