SpaceX fired Musk critics – watchdog
US federal labor regulators have accused the American aerospace manufacturer SpaceX of illegally firing employees who had circulated an open letter that was critical of the leadership of the company’s founder and chief executive, Elon Musk.
In allegations filed on Wednesday by a regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), SpaceX is alleged to have terminated the employment of eight workers – and questioned dozens more – after a letter expressing opposition to Musk’s “disparaging” and “sexually charged” rhetoric on social media was distributed within the company.
The open letter further called out SpaceX for its failure to address “sexism, harassment and discrimination” in the workplace, the NLRB complaint said, in addition to Musk’s “harmful Twitter behavior.”
“Elon’s behavior in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us,” workers added in the co-signed letter.
Among the various allegations compiled by the labor board are that SpaceX’s chief operation officer, Gwynne Shotwell, took measures to illegally restrict the circulation of the letter among the company’s 13,000 employees. The complaint also claims that SpaceX “told other employees that the eight had been discharged for participating in the open letter.”
Additionally, the NLRB said that SpaceX cultivated “an impression of surveillance” among its workforce by showing employees screenshots of digital conversations that had taken place between workers. SpaceX has not yet commented on the allegations.
“At SpaceX, the rockets may be reusable, but the people who build them are treated as expendable,” Paige Holland-Thielen, one of the former employees, said, according to the New York Times. “I am hopeful these charges will hold SpaceX and its leadership accountable for their long history of mistreating workers and stifling discourse.”
According to a CBS report, if SpaceX opts not to settle the case, an administrative law judge will likely hear it on March 5. The NLRB has the authority to order companies to rehire workers whose employment was unfairly terminated. Additionally, if found liable, SpaceX could also be made to facilitate back pay for fired staff members.
Musk’s management style was brought into sharp focus during the over one year following his acquisition of Twitter, which he has since rebranded as X. He laid off about half of the social media giant’s workforce soon after the October 2022 takeover, including several internal critics according to a report by the New York Times.
Recent reports have stated that the value of X has fallen by as much as 71% since Musk’s $44 billion takeover.