In a significant development, Elon Musk-owned Space X and electric vehicle company Tesla have found themselves at the receiving end of heavy criticism on Friday. As per reports, SpaceX which fired employees who wrote a letter criticising Elon Musk's behaviour in the public sphere has likely violated US labour laws. Meanwhile, Tesla has started another wave of layoffs, and this time it also includes hourly workers instead of just salaried employees as the CEO claimed.
According to the auto-website Electrek, Tesla came heavy on hourly employees in its sales and delivery teams across North America, by waving them off yesterday (June 18). Earlier this month, the website reported on Musk telling Tesla executives in an email that they need to cut 10 percent of the workforce and pause hiring due to having a "super bad feeling" about the economy. He claimed that the 10 per cent reduction would be for "salaried headcount" due to Tesla becoming overstaffed following a long growth phase. He even stated that "hourly headcount will increase". However, the website now confirmed that the electric vehicle company is also laying off hourly workers across its organisation.
On the other hand, Musk's other brain-child, SpaceX on Thursday fired employees who wrote an open letter against Musk's behaviour on Twitter, calling it a "frequent source of distraction and embarrassment" for them. Taking to Twitter, the SpaceX employee took a sly dig at the company's CEO by writing, "As our CEO and most prominent spokesperson, Elon is seen as the face of SpaceX, every Tweet that Elon sends is a de facto public statement by the company. It is critical to make clear to our teams and to our potential talent pool that his messaging does not reflect our work, our mission, or our values."
According to The Verge, labour lawyers now say the firings may have violated US labour law. The fired employees may also approach the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to sue SpaceX. Several reports quoted Charlotte Garden, a law professor at Seattle University, saying that an action has to be concerted (certainly the case here) and it has to relate to working conditions.
Recently, the NLRB ordered Musk-run Tesla to reinstate a fired employee with back pay. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) has taken the SpaceX firings seriously. "Elon Musk says he's committed to free speech - except when his employees are exercising their legally protected right to speak out about their working conditions," the CWA said in a statement.
Meanwhile, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell criticised the open letter as "overreaching activism". "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," wrote Shotwell. "We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism," she added.