The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a formal complaint against SpaceX for allegedly firing eight employees for circulating an open letter critical of CEO Elon Musk’s social media behavior. The complaint, filed on January 3, 2024, stems from the letter’s circulation on a SpaceX computer system in June of last year.
The open letter, which was penned by anonymous employees, called on SpaceX to distance itself from Musk’s social media presence, citing it as a “frequent source of distraction and embarrassment” for the company. The letter also criticized the perceived uneven enforcement of SpaceX’s “zero tolerance” policy on unacceptable behavior.
Following the letter’s release, SpaceX proceeded to fire some of the employees associated with it, prompting the NLRB to investigate potential labor violations. The complaint alleges that the company officials engaged in coercive practices, such as implying that employees who engaged in protected concerted activities would be terminated. Additionally, the company is accused of surveilling employee communications about the letter, further fueling concerns about their right to collective action.
The NLRB, in its complaint, concluded that SpaceX had interfered with, restrained, and coerced employees in their exercise of rights guaranteed under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The agency has requested remedies including training for company’s managers on the act and the issuance of apology letters to the affected employees.
While monetary damages were not specified, the NLRB emphasized its pursuit of “all other relief as may be just and proper to remedy the unfair labor practices alleged.”
SpaceX has yet to publicly respond to the complaint but has been given until January 17 to file a formal response with the NLRB. A hearing on the complaint is scheduled for March 5th, but the NLRB encourages the parties to engage in settlement negotiations prior to that date. Will that be possible?
Now closer to Twitter/X
Interestingly, despite the open letter’s call for distance from Musk’s social media antics, SpaceX has arguably moved closer to him since his acquisition of Twitter and subsequent renaming to X.
The company has consolidated its social media activities and launch livestreams exclusively on X—abandoning its YouTube channel where SpaceX has streamed each launch and event since the beginning— seemingly deepening its integration with Musk’s online presence.
Side note: on the same day the NLRB filed its complaint, Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, made her debut post on X. She celebrated SpaceX’s “record-breaking 2023” in launches and Starlink customer growth, attributing these achievements to the company’s workforce.
I also must congratulate the extraordinary @SpaceX team for a record breaking 2023: shattering global launch records, flying more people from more countries to orbit, completing two very exciting flight tests of Starship and growing Starlink’s impact by more than 1.3 million new…— Gwynne Shotwell (@Gwynne_Shotwell) January 4, 2024