Former SpaceX employees say that they were fired in June for writing and circulating an open letter criticizing the behavior of CEO Elon Musk, as well as the content he posts on Twitter. The employees who were fired have filed charges of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board. They claim that SpaceX retaliated against them for writing the letter, and firing was against the law.
The timing of the news is particularly noteworthy, as news broke this week that Musk had been scanning Twitter’s internal Slack channels to root out anybody criticizing him—and firing them on the spot. It’s yet another instance of Musk, who has referred to himself as a “free speech absolutist,” ruling his companies with an iron fist and quashing any dissent, especially when it comes to his erratic behavior.
Musk’s companies have previously faced challenges from the National Labor Relations Board, which protects employees’ right to seek better working conditions without fear of retaliation. In March 2021, the NLRB upheld a decision that found Tesla to have engaged in unfair labor practices by firing a worker for attempting to unionize and for a Musk tweet discouraging unionization.
Additionally, in response to leaks, Tesla required employees to “renew their vows” and sign a new confidentiality agreement. But the non-disclosure agreement prohibited employees from speaking with the media and was also found to be unlawful.
Last year, a former female SpaceX employee described the company’s workplace as being “rife with sexism” and “in a state of disrepair and dysfunction so great that the only remedy, finally, was to leave.” In short, this latest report highlights Musk’s controversial and martial management style. Any critique opens up workers to being terminated immediately, which likely only leads to an even less functional work culture.