SpaceX employees say they were fired for speaking up about Musk

In June, about 20 engineers were invited to a meeting hosted at the headquarters of the rocket manufacturer SpaceX. The subject of the conversation: the company’s founder and CEO, Elon Musk. The day before, the company had moved to fire five employees who had written a letter calling on SpaceX to condemn the “harmful Twitter behaviour” of Musk, who had used the social network to make light of a news report that SpaceX had settled a sexual harassment claim against him. Several of the engineers filed into the meeting expecting a sympathetic ear, as some managers and executives had indicated that they did not condone Musk‘s behaviour.
But the meeting, which has not been previously reported, quickly became heated, according to two SpaceX employees in attendance. They said Jon Edwards, the vice-president leading the meeting, characterised the letter as an extremist act and declared that the writers had been fired for distracting the company and taking on Musk. When asked whether the CEO could sexually harass his workers with impunity, Edwards did not appear to answer, the two employees said. But they said the meeting had a recurring theme – Musk could do whatever he wanted at the firm. “SpaceX is Elon and Elon is SpaceX,” the two recalled hearing Edwards declare.
The SpaceX letter ultimately led to the firing of nine workers. On Wednesday, unfair-labour-practice charges were filed with the National Labour Relations Board on behalf of eight of those workers, arguing that their firings were illegal. The SpaceX case raises questions about the management practices at Musk’s companies, where there is little tolerance for dissent or labour organising. These employees also said there’s a culture that appears to tolerate sexual harassment and gender discrimination within Musk’s companies. This week, Musk fired dozens of Twitter employees who criticised him.
“It was hard for me to believe what was happening it was so brazen,” said Tom Moline, an engineer who had been with SpaceX for eight years when he was fired in June after helping to organise the letter effort. “Elon’s behaviour is a frequent source of embarrassment for us,” the letter read. Within hours, Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president sent Moline and and another staffer, who organised the campaign, an email. “Stop flooding employee communication channels,” she wrote. “I’ll consider your ignoring my email to be insubordination. Please focus on your job.”
The following morning, news outlets reported on the letter. By that afternoon, Moline, and four other employees were fired. An official cited their role in creating and distributing the letter, the employees said. SpaceX, Musk and Edwards did not comment.

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