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National Labor Relations Board files complaint against SpaceX

Elon Musk, a target for destruction by Joe Biden
Elon Musk, a target for destruction
by Joe Biden

The Biden administration’s continuing legal harassment of SpaceX and Elon Musk was escalated yesterday when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a new complaint against the company, accusing it of firing eight employees illegally for writing a public letter criticizing the company in 2022.

The letter, circulated in 2022, criticized Musk’s actions and the allegations of sexual harassment against him, claiming they were negatively contributing to the company’s reputation. The letter also said the company was failing to live up to its “No Asshole” policy and its policy against sexual harassment.

The letter, whose authorship was not known at the time it was first reported, called on SpaceX to “publicly address and condemn Elon’s harmful Twitter behavior,” to “hold all leadership equally accountable” for bad behavior, and to “clearly define what exactly is intended by SpaceX’s ‘no-asshole’ and ‘zero tolerance’ policies and enforce them consistently.”

According to the NLRB, one SpaceX employer held interviews to determine the writers of the letter, after which they were fired. The case will go before the NLRB in March.

Is this another case of blacklisting, similar to the numerous stories I’ve reported for the last four years where someone was fired for having political opinions? I don’t think so, though some could argue otherwise. In those many other cases, the opinions expressed were generally political in nature and unrelated to the work environment itself. If a company is demanding you bow to critical race theory and admit you are racist simply because you are white and fires you when you refuse, that is not the same as writing a letter accusing your employer of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment, and then soliciting signatures from the entire workforce before releasing it publicly. The first case is a direct slander against the employee and is an unreasonable demand. The second is a concerted effort to foster a workplace mutiny, something unacceptable to all employers. It seems the company would have the right to remove such malcontents from its place of business.

Gywnne Shotwell, SpaceX’s CEO, made these facts very clear at the time the letter was published.

You may have received an unsolicited request from a small group of SpaceX employees for your signature on an “open letter” yesterday and your participation in a related survey. Based on diverse employee feedback, this has upset many. That is, the letter, solicitations and general process made employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied, and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign onto something that did not reflect their views. Employees also complained that it interfered with their ability to focus on and do their work. … We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism — our current leadership team is more dedicated to ensuring we have a great and ever-improving work environment than any I have seen in my 35-year career.

We solicit and expect our employees to report all concerns to their leadership, senior management, HR, or Legal. But blanketing thousands of people across the company with repeated unsolicited emails and asking them to sign letters and fill out unsponsored surveys during the work day is not acceptable, goes against our documented handbook policy, and does not show the strong judgement needed to work in this very challenging space transportation sector. We performed an investigation and have terminated a number of employees involved.

In its case against SpaceX the NLRB is seeking reinstatement of the employees and full back pay. If SpaceX loses and is forced to rehire these malcontents, I can’t imagine how they can possibly contribute anything positive to the company.

The NLRB’s effort here therefore suggests it is simply joining the Biden administration’s war on Musk, which previously involved legal actions or regulatory intransigence from seven different government agencies in eight different cases. The NLRB now makes that eight different agencies and nine different cases.

Nor is this the first time the NLRB under Joe Biden has gone after someone for political reasons. In April 2022 the NLRB sued the conservative news outlet The Federalist because its publisher made a joke on Twitter. It quickly lost that case, because the accusation was absurd. In the interim however it succeeded in harassing a political opponent of Joe Biden and the Democratic Party.

The NLRB is now attempting to do the same to SpaceX.

As I have previously noted, Elon Musk is possibly the most successful American businessman in decades, creating new companies and wealth that has provided jobs to hundreds of thousands while revitalizing the economies of whole cities. Politicians like Joe Biden should be celebrating his achievements. Instead, Biden and his ilk in government hate Musk precisely because of that success, and want to destroy him, even if it means putting hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work. He threatens their power, and that is their biggest concern. They don’t care one iota for America and its citizens.

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12 comments

  • David Eastman

    I’m sure a big part of this is “get Elon.” But a bigger part of this is just pure power, the NLRB is very much hard left, and wants to be able to exert itself in workplace control for the cause. They may be viewing this is a “we can use this to establish useful precedent, and our chance of winning against the ebil overlord is better than an equivalent suit against, say General Mills.”

  • Concerned

    They’re going after Musk for one reason, and one BIG reason: his purchase and liberation of Twitter. The release of the Twitter Files exposed how they had become a controlled intelligence state asset, throttling, shadow banning, and outright eliminating the free speech of thousands of users all the way up to President Trump. They will never forgive Musk for derailing that and will go after him undoubtedly as hard as they are persecuting Trump.

  • The at-will employment law of California allows an employer to fire an employee with or without cause and with or without notice for any lawful reason. This does not mean an employer can fire an employee for no reason or for an illegal reason, I don’t like the color of your shirt is good enough.

  • F

    Musk should mock Biden’s NLRB by claiming that the employees were terminated because of…

    (Wait for it . . .)

    CLIMATE CHANGE!

  • Boobah

    I’d argue it’s less freeing Twitter, per se, than the revelations of government control/manipulation, and by extension the likely government control over all social media. Nobody looks at the Twitter Files and thinks that Twitter was a unique case; they either deny the whole thing or, considering the unified way the social media companies simultaneously denied access to unfavored people, they believe that concerted action was directed by the Feds.

  • Andi

    Minor edit in last sentence of last paragraph: “don’t care one iota”

  • The message of the ruling regime, between the lines: “None shall stand against our One True Way!”

    It is not enough to succeed, one must succeed in a manner that meets the approval of the ruling regime.

    Which is why they always want to run every activity through the government gauntlet.

    They are the new fundamentalists of our day.

  • Andi: Fixed. Thank you! I am hoping the cataract surgery yesterday will make it easier for me to see the screen and catch more typos.

  • Jeff Wright

    There was a time when the NLRB was unfairly red-baited in trying to keep Corporate types from moving jobs overseas because (gasp?) Americans who actually DID the work wanted good wages.

    And how did the corporate types thank you?

    By de-banking you.

    The DNC needs to rid itself of Greens and Groomers, and the GOP needs go populist.

  • Jeff, you do not have an unalienable right to “good wages”. You have to deliver the productivity to support them, or your employer either has to go elsewhere for those services – or go out of business.

    And the union uber alles paradigm that the NLRB was established to support eroded that productivity, by empowering unions that focused only on what they can GET, not balancing that a focus on what their members deliver in productivity and quality.

    More generally, populism can be as short-sighted and greedy as the corporatists. Make it about respect for individual liberty, and expecting individual responsibility, instead of treating the American worker as a helpless victim in need of outside intervention as the only way to protect their interests. That goes a long way to curbing short-sighted greed.

  • sippin_bourbon

    Just some past and current attacks:

    The SEC has sued Musk over the purchase of the X/Twitter
    The FTC has demanded internal X documents.
    The Biden DOJ has sued SpaceX for not hiring foreign workers.
    The Biden DOJ and the SEC have sued Tesla over improper perks.
    The Biden DOJ has opened a criminal investigation against Tesla over self-driving cars.
    There is a federal investigation of Neuralink.
    An EEOC investigation over harassment at Tesla.
    And now this investigation of improper terminations.

    Non-investigation attacks include re-defining a grant to exclude SpaceX from FCC funds for Rural Broadband and Advertising boycott on the part of major corporations at X/Twitter led by Media Matters.

    Non-US actions include the EU investigation for “disinformation”. I find the timing suspect, and would like to know if the investigation is not the result of pressure from the Administration, in the same fashion that they pressured Ukraine to fire a prosecutor.

    I am not privy enough to know if there was anything to some of the investigations.
    Others are more clears (like the foreign workers case, which seems like a catch-22. Hire the workers so we can prosecute you for ITAR violations.)

    But the attacks are still coming, and I suspect they are warming up to a full court press. I cynically believe they want to sideline twitter and free press as much as possible before the 2024 election. If so, then look for more investigations, but also pressure on other organizations, such as substack.

  • Edward

    Let’s see if I understand this correctly. A bunch of assholes wanted the company to enforce its no-asshole policy, then complained when it did. The company is damned if it doesn’t and damned if it does.

    From the article:

    In the complaint, according to the NLRB press release, the agency claimed the employer at SpaceX … also “created an impression of surveillance,”

    Is the NLRB kidding? Employers have always surveilled their employees, from timecards stamped when the employee arrives and leaves to modern day surveillance by security cameras all over the workplace and recording employee movements through card-keyed doorways, and if you think that your emails on your company email account are private then think again. Some employers even record customer calls “for training purposes.”

    Impression of surveillance? There is always surveillance!

    At SpaceX the rockets may be reusable but the people who build them are treated as expendable.

    This, too, is true for all employers. By necessity. If there isn’t enough work, if an employee is more harmful than helpful, or if there is a better prospective employee waiting in the wings, then the employee is expendable. The business suffers otherwise, and if the company goes out of business because of it, the rights of all the rest of the employees are instantly nullified.

    Another charging party, Tom Moline, said, “I had no doubt that the NLRB would recognize SpaceX’s actions for what they were: feeble attempts to punish, intimidate, and silence me and hundreds of other workers who simply sought to improve workplace conditions and address the toxic culture set by Elon Musk, enforced by Gwynne Shotwell, and enabled by all levels of SpaceX leadership.

    But it was OK for the employees to intimidate and silence the other employees, the managers, and the owners? It is another case of a bunch of three-year-olds trying to have it their way under all conditions, even if it violates their own reasoning in the same sentence.

    The whole idea behind a company is to have a product to sell to the people willing to buy it. The whole idea behind employment is to be the productive force behind that product, and if you are more harmful than helpful, then you have violated both ideas.

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