More than 400 SpaceX employees signed an open letter denouncing CEO Elon Musk in less than a day and a half after it was uploaded and shared by several of their coworkers in an internal conversation. The document’s internal home page was pulled down 32 hours after it was uploaded, at the same time that a number of employees were fired for their roles in writing and disseminating the letter, a move that may have been illegal under labor law.
The open letter went up on an internal landing page at noon Eastern, and it was shared with around ten Microsoft Teams chat rooms and one email list by a small group of employees. The contents were frank: the employees alleged that Musk’s recent behavior had embarrassed and distracted the company. SpaceX should remove itself from Musk’s Twitter presence, according to the letter writers, and do a better job of holding executives and perpetrators of sexual harassment accountable.
The document was shared on the largest Teams channel of SpaceX, which had roughly 2,600 members, most of whom were engineers, whereas the other Teams channels were quite small
The letter’s authors also planned to distribute a stack of actual copies of the letter around the manufacturing and food service industries, with QR codes for anyone to scan. No one was brave enough, according to one of the participants, to hand them out before the firings began. There were also concerns that posting copies of the letter may be misconstrued as labor organizing, and that security cameras in the SpaceX building would reveal who distributed them. Before the landing page was taken down, the authors calculated that 3,000 unique visitors arrived to their site.
While the paper gained 404 signatures, according to one participant, many more people contacted those who posted the letter on Signal, in person, and through Teams, claiming they would sign if they could afford to be fired right now. In 2017, an employee at another Musk company, Tesla, was dismissed for sending out fliers encouraging employees to join a union. Tesla will also be establishing a “hardcore litigation department” that will “directly initiate and execute lawsuits,” Musk tweeted in May of this year.
“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,” Shotwell wrote. Echoing the letter writers, she claimed that the letter, not Musk’s behaviour, was a source of distraction for SpaceX, which has a busy schedule in the days and weeks ahead.
In less than a day and a half after it was uploaded and shared by several of their coworkers in an internal dialogue, more than 400 SpaceX employees signed an open letter criticizing CEO Elon Musk. The internal home page for the document was taken down 32 hours after it was uploaded, at the same time as a number of employees were fired for their participation in producing and disseminating the letter, a move that may have been illegal under labour law.
Other employees who were not participating in the letter were also made to feel nervous, intimidated, and pushed into signing it, according to Shotwell’s email. That view is rejected by two of the persons who worked on it, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. They claim they did nothing more than post the letter to the Teams channels, alerting people to it and asking for assistance.