Activists gathered outside Twitter headquarters in San Francisco over the weekend to protest owner Elon Musk’s layoffs of thousands of workers at the social media giant.
Musk, the billionaire CEO of Tesla, appears to be approaching the level of public loathing heretofore reserved for folks like “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli and Kim Jong-un. He let go thousands of Twitter’s 7,500 workers after purchasing the company in late 2022 — according to widespread reports, as much as half of Twitter’s workforce.
Saturday’s protest took place at 11 a.m. outside Twitter headquarters at 1355 Market Street, said Steve Zeltzer, who led the rally with fellow labor activist Andrew Kong Knight.
Performers at the event include the Angry Tired Teachers Band, a pro-labor group whose playlists include selections like “(I Can’t Get No) Contract Satisfaction.” Kong Knight, a muralist and former Hayward high school teacher, presented a painting depicting Musk on a one-way trip to Mars.
Zeltzer said the event was in support of both the laid-off workers and those who remain at Twitter.
“We think he should comply with the labor laws. He has a history of flagrantly flouting labor laws. He fired 700 Tesla workers who were trying to organize,” Zeltzer said.
“There’s a cult of personality around Elon and we want to burst the bubble about who he really is. His employees need protection. They need labor rights,” Zeltzer said.
Not enough WARNing
The layoffs prompted a class action lawsuit filed Nov. 4 in San Francisco federal court by employees who alleged the terminations violated state and federal labor laws.
The suit filed on behalf of Twitter employees in the company’s San Francisco and Cambridge, Massachusetts, offices alleges that Musk’s plans to lay off the employees are not allowed under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, as well as the state’s WARN Act.
The federal law requires employers with 100 or more full-time employees to provide at least 60 calendar days’ notice of a layoff affecting 500 or more employees at a single site.
One employee included in the lawsuit says he was notified last week of his termination without prior notice, while others said they were locked out of their accounts.
Musk acknowledged the layoffs the day after the suit was filed, writing on Twitter that “unfortunately there is no choice when the company is losing over $4M/day. Everyone exited was offered 3 months of severance, which is 50% more than legally required.”
Local politicians were critical of Twitter’s layoffs, including state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, who called Musk’s moves “deeply concerning.”
Wiener said, “While companies periodically engage in layoffs to acknowledge economic realities, firing a full half of employees goes well beyond that. Combined with Musk’s signals that he will allow toxic accounts back onto the platform — thus leading to targeting and incitement of violence against LGBTQ people, Jews, people or color, and others — I see trouble ahead for Twitter, its users, and our democracy.”
A video from Saturday’s rally can be viewed on YouTube.