SpaceX responds to unfair dismissal charges, calls watchdog unconstitutional

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a complaint against SpaceX on Wednesday, accusing it of unfair labour practices and unlawful dismissal. Now, SpaceX has responded — by filing a lawsuit claiming that NLRB’s entire structure violates the Constitution. 

The Elon Musk-owned company sued the NLRB in a Texas federal court on Thursday, arguing that the government agency is unconstitutional because the U.S. President does not have a “constitutionally required degree of control” over its administrative law judges (ALJs). 

Specifically, SpaceX claims that the President should be able to remove the NLRB’s judges without cause because the Constitution requires that the President use executive power to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” In SpaceX’s apparent view, this responsibility should include more complete control over who is executing said laws.

“[T]he ALJs are removable only for cause, by officials who themselves are removable only for cause,” read SpaceX’s complaint. 

SpaceX also argues that the NLRB violates the separation of powers by serving simultaneously as prosecutor and adjudicator, exercising legislative, executive, and judicial powers in its administrative proceedings. Further, the company claims that adjudication by the NLRB’s administrative law judges violates its Seventh Amendment right to a trial by jury.

“Even after acting as prosecutor by charging SpaceX with violations of federal labor law before an Article III tribunal, the same NLRB Members would then issue the agency’s ultimate order on whether SpaceX has violated federal labor law,” the complaint read.

If the unlawful dismissal case against SpaceX goes ahead, it would first be heard by a NLRB administrative judge, then a five-member board appointed by the President. This decision wouldn’t necessarily be final though, with the respondent still able to appeal in federal court. 

Even so, SpaceX is clearly disinterested in letting it get that far. The company has requested that the court stop the NLRB from proceeding with the charges, as well as declare NLRB’s structure unconstitutional and permanently prevent it from bringing unfair labour practice charges against SpaceX until this is rectified.

Mashable has reached out to SpaceX for comment. The NLRB declined to comment. 

Notably, SpaceX did not provide any further response to NLRB’s specific allegations that the company violated the National Labor Relations Act. SpaceX has been accused of unlawfully firing employees who criticised CEO Musk, as well as interrogating, intimidating, coercing, and implicitly threatening others. 

One would think that directly addressing such allegations would be easier than attempting to undermine an 88-year-old government agency. However, considering that the NLRB didn’t find SpaceX’s defence compelling enough to dissuade it from filing charges, the company may not have much faith in its ability to win with more conventional arguments.

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