[Issue 056] 🗣 The leaders we deserve


Happy Tuesday, good people!

Over the past few days I've been following the news, per usual, and I can't get two particular pieces out of my mind. 

The first is the coverage of Tesla's Fremont, CA factory (which employs 10,000+ people) and the alarming rate of injuries, many of which are believed to be under- and unreported. The article goes deep into the safety issues at the company, the culture and its leadership. The hardest parts to read are the stories of how injuries have permanently affected various workers' lives, especially their ability to physically and financially take care of their families.

Some say the root of the problem is the prioritization of manufacturing output above safety concerns. The real root of the problem, in my opinion, is leadership.

Or lack thereof.

The piece depicts a culture where senior managers are afraid to "cross" the CEO, Elon Musk. And that because his preferences—such as disliking the color yellow, too many signs in the factory and the beeping sound of forklifts backing up—many have been reluctant to speak up for worker safety issues.




The worst part of all of this (aside from the horrible impact this has had on hundreds of workers' lives) is how the company has responded. Sticking to the pattern of aggression and defensiveness that we've seen in response to issues of sexism, racism and even attempted unionization, the company released a statement saying:

"Unfortunately the writers at Reveal paint a completely false picture of Tesla and what it is actually like to work here. In our view, what they portray as investigative journalism is in fact an ideologically motivated attack by an extremist organization working directly with union supporters to create a calculated disinformation campaign against Tesla."


Okay, let me start here: every company has the right to defend itself. And it absolutely should. Also, I recognize that I have zero PR or crisis communications experience.

However, as a consumer—and someone who *keyword* once aspired to own a Tesla—this response is unacceptable.

The second thing I haven't been able to stop thinking about is the 60 Minutes coverage of Allegiant Air's horrendous safety record. (You can watch or read the transcript here.) 

The stories about the airline's issues, including cabin pressure loss, emergency descents and unscheduled landings, had me feeling like...


Similar to Tesla, the company's statement was as mature as a pubescent teenage boy. In it the VP of Operations lets us know that he was personally "outraged and astounded" by the report, which "bears no resemblance to the Allegiant I know." He then goes on to say:

"It has come to our attention that the 60 Minutes story was instigated by a terminated employee currently involved in a lawsuit seeking money damages from the company.'"


Now compare that behavior to a company like Starbucks, that could've gone on the defensive and claimed that the Philadelphia incident was an isolated one but instead apologized and took swift (yet imperfect) action.

Granted, I know the latter situation is incomparable to the first two. Safety issues are legal matters and require many more stakeholders to resolve. Even more, I know Allegiant Air reports its earnings to Wall Street tomorrow and is likely trying to avoid a shitshow there.

But we need leaders willing to admit to mistakes.

At the end of the day, these are human lives at stake, and we deserve to have companies that are lead by people who can see that.



U.S. to fine Wells Fargo $1 billion — the most aggressive bank penalty of the Trump era. Federal regulators are preparing to fine the company for charging thousands of customers for auto insurance they didn’t need and charging some customers fees to lock in a certain mortgage interest rate. // WASHINGTON POST


A few "fun" facts to accompany this headline...

  • In September 2016 Wells Fargo was fined $185 million for opening millions of fake accounts.
  • In August 2016 the company was fined $3.6Mfor misleading student loan borrowers, even charging some on-time payers with late fees
  • Resulting from a 2012 lawsuit, in February 2016 the company agreed to pay a $1.2B settlement for mortgage fraud.
  • In July 2012 the company agreed to pay at least $175M to settle charges of discrimination against black and Hispanic borrowers 


SunTrust Says Data on 1.5 Million Customers May Have Been Stolen. A former employee may have stolen data from 1.5 Million customers, including data such as names, addresses, phone numbers, and account balances (but did not include social security numbers or user IDs and passwords). // SUNTRUST

Dick’s Sporting Goods Will Destroy the Assault-Style Weapons It Didn’t Sell. After their February 28th policy change of no longer selling assault-style guns, the company has decided to destroy their unsold guns instead of selling them back to the manufacturer. (The NRA is not too happy.) // NYTIMES

Meet the Activists Leading the Fight for Paid Family Leave. A group of investors, workers, and labor organizers are working to improve family leave policies at companies like Walmart, Starbucks, Target, and Walgreens. (I'm a huge fan of the work PL+US is doing here to effect change!) // FORTUNE

Lyft Says Every Ride Will Be Carbon Neutral With Clean-Air Plan. The company announced plans to spend millions on projects that will offset pollution created by drivers. // BLOOMBERG


Tesla and beyond: Hidden problems of Silicon Valley.  With Silicon Valley under the microscope for not living up to its idealistic hype, this week’s episode of Reveal investigates tech companies on the cutting edge that are struggling to solve old-fashioned problems. [ LISTEN ]

Tesla and beyond: Hidden problems of Silicon Valley. With Silicon Valley under the microscope for not living up to its idealistic hype, this week’s episode of Reveal investigates tech companies on the cutting edge that are struggling to solve old-fashioned problems. [LISTEN]


"At best you were incompetent, at worst you were complicit. Either way you should be fired."

— Senator Elizabeth Warren to current Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan in 2017

Nikita T. Mitchell