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Musk sues US labour court's right to exist

by on15 January 2024

Courts should not be allowed to investigate rich people's labour abuses

Self-styled “free speech absolutist” Elon [look at me] Musk has set his legal hounds on a US labour watchdog which objected to him firing staff who said they didn’t like him.

For those who came in late, the eight staff wrote an open letter to SpaceX saying they were worried about Musk’s erratic antics which they said were a 'distraction and embarrassment'. Musk threw his toys out of the pram and fired them. They objected to this and complained to the  National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which launched an investigation.

Musk's has launched a legal attack on the US labour watchdog, claiming it is unconstitutional and trying to stop it from probing the firm's sackings.

SpaceX also 'told other workers that the eight were fired for joining in the open letter, grilled other workers about the open letter (and told workers not to talk about the interviews), made it seem like they were being watched (including reading and showing screenshots of chats between workers), put down joining in the open letter, and stopped workers from sharing the open letter,' CBS reported the NLRB said in a statement.

The open letter incident is not the first time one of Musk's firms has been accused of getting rid of workers who criticise the oddball “free speech” billionaire.

In 2022, some Twitter workers who slammed Musk on the site soon after his £32 billion takeover of the company said they were sacked after posting about Musk. At Tesla, two ex-workers filed complaints with the NLRB, accusing the firm of illegally firing them for having a go at Musk's tweets and the electric car maker's strict back-to-office rule.

In response to the NLRB complaint - which is set for trial on 5 March - SpaceX is not targeting the claim that it fired workers illegally but the federal agency itself.

A labour lawyer, David Wimmer, told Business Insider that what you're seeing from SpaceX is, maybe, a sign that the complaint on its own is a strong one. Instead, Musk is thinking: Is the best defence a good attack and claim that the NLRB is unconstitutional?

In a request for a temporary order filed against the NLRB, SpaceX argues that the judges in charge of the wrongful sacking case should not be able to decide if SpaceX fired its workers illegally until the federal government rules on the firm's constitutional questions about the NLRB's proceedings.

“SpaceX has filed this action to avoid serious and lasting injuries that it will otherwise suffer from being put through an unconstitutional administrative proceeding,” SpaceX's request reads.

“Defendants are prosecuting and presiding over such a proceeding accusing SpaceX of breaking federal law. Because the structure of that proceeding breaks the United States Constitution under Supreme Court and Fifth Circuit rules, SpaceX respectfully asks for an order stopping the NLRB proceedings unless and until the constitutional faults are fixed.”

Musk’s legal team moaned that NLRB judges and board members were unconstitutionally protected from being removed from office by the President, breaking Article II of the Constitution.

NLRB proceedings break SpaceX's right to a jury trial by ruling on private matters outside the court system, breaking the Seventh Amendment.

The NLRB 'crosses the line of powers and breaks SpaceX's due-process rights' by 'using prosecutorial, legislative, and adjudicatory power in the same proceeding.'

However, the NLRB has been challenged a few times over the years, including soon after it was passed in 1935. While those attempts failed, they did not try the new grounds SpaceX has put forward in its lawsuit.

Coincidently, SpaceX's suit against the NLRB is similar to a recent argument against the board's power published in November by the right-wing legal group the Federalist Society.

Musk’s legal team are filing the case in Texas where judges and juries are more likely to favour employers rather than worker-protective courts in California, where the alleged wrongful sackings took place.

Last modified on 15 January 2024
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