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The individuals, who encouraged the rocket company to “swiftly and explicitly separate itself from Elon’s personal brand” over the summer, filed unfair labor practices charges with the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday, according to a report from The New York Times.
Former employees claimed that they had been invited into a meeting with SpaceX Vice President of Falcon Launch Vehicles Jon Edwards, who allegedly criticized their endorsement of the letter. Nine employees were eventually fired over the document after SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell wrote in an email that “we have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism.”
The letter cited an alleged incident during which a flight attendant accused Musk of exposing himself several years ago, touching her, and offering to buy her a horse in exchange for an erotic massage. Shotwell dismissed the claims in a message to the company, although the former employees claimed they had pressed Edwards about the incident during the meeting.
The document also came after Musk announced that he would vote for Republicans in the midterm elections. The world’s richest man formerly identified the “woke mind virus” as the “biggest threat” to civilization.
“Elon’s behavior in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks,” according to the letter, which purportedly represented employees “across the spectra of gender, ethnicity, seniority, and technical roles.”
Lawyers who filed charges on behalf of eight former SpaceX employees said that the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which guarantees access to collective bargaining privileges, likely renders the dismissals illegal. The National Labor Relations Board is granted authority to “arbitrate deadlocked labor-management disputes, guarantee democratic union elections, and penalize unfair labor practices by employers.”
The new legal action occurs weeks after Musk purchased social media platform Twitter and instituted reforms designed to promote freedom of expression. Musk has already reduced headcount by half and fired a handful of employees who publicly criticized him.
An attorney for the company, for example, posted a message viewable to all staff arguing that Musk was introducing the risk of violating a previous settlement agreement with the Federal Trade Commission by allegedly telling engineers to “self-certify compliance” with regulations. The message also contained a number of secondary grievances against Musk, including the accusation that he does not care about “human rights activists” or “dissidents.”
Musk told the public that he purchased the company in order to facilitate open dialogue between citizens with differing opinions. “The reason I acquired Twitter is because it is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence,” the multibillionaire wrote in a statement. “There is currently great danger that social media will splinter into far right wing and far left wing echo chambers that generate more hate and divide our society.”