SpaceX Sues Federal Agency Over 'Unconstitutional' Structure

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by Tyler Durden
Saturday, Jan 06, 2024 - 02:20 AM

Elon Musk's SpaceX has filed a lawsuit against a federal agency alleging that it's out of control in violation of the constitution.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has a panel of judges which hear cases brought against companies over workers' rights. One such complaint lodged in December against SpaceX is being sent there for adjudication - however SpaceX argues that they're essentially a rogue agency.

The U.S. Constitution requires the president to have “sufficient control” over the judges, and an appeals court concluded in 2022 that administrative law judges (ALJs) in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are unconstitutionally shielded from presidential oversight.

The same reasoning applies to the ALJs of the NLRB, including the ALJ assigned to preside over the pending NLRB proceedings against SpaceX,” SpaceX said in the Jan. 4 suit.

The company is asking the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas to rule that the current makeup of the NLRB is unconstitutional. -The Epoch Times

"To prevent SpaceX from undergoing protracted administrative proceedings before an unconstitutionally structured agency—after which SpaceX is unlikely to have a chance to secure meaningful retrospective relief—the court should stay or enjoin the current agency proceedings, declare that the NLRB’s structure violates the separation of powers under Article II of the Constitution, and permanently enjoin the NLRB and its general counsel from pursuing unfair labor practice charges against SpaceX before agency officials that are unconstitutionally insulated from presidential oversight, " reads the filing, which also claims that the NLRB's five-member board is structured improperly, and is the "very definition of tyranny." 

US District Judge Rolando Olvera, an Obama appointee, was assigned to the case after the NLRB accused SpaceX of violating federal law by firing workers who spoke out against the company's practices.

In a 2022 open letter to management, workers complained about Musk's posts on Twitter, calling them "a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us," and complained that it should be made clear that "his messaging does not reflect our work, our mission, or our values."

According to NLRB officials, SpaceX, in a "wave of wrongful retaliatory terminations," fired workers who signed the open letter, and others involved in activity protected by the National Labor Relations Act.

More via the Epoch Times;

Deborah Lawrence, one of the workers whom SpaceX fired, told news outlets in a statement through her lawyers that the company has a “toxic culture.”

“We wrote the open letter to leadership not out of malice, but because we cared about the mission and the people around us,” she said.

As of now, a hearing in the matter is scheduled to take place on March 5 in Los Angeles, California, before an administrative law judge.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Dragon capsule and a crew of four private astronauts, lifts off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on May 21, 2023. (John Raoux/AP Photo)

Campaign Against Musk

The NLRB is one of several government agencies that have brought actions against Mr. Musk after he became a critic of President Joe Biden and the federal government.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in August 2023 sued SpaceX, saying the company illegally only hired U.S. citizens and permanent residents. A countersuit in the same federal court in which the new suit was brought said the company was complying with federal law that governs companies involved with sensitive technology.

Judge Olvera ruled in favor of SpaceX and paused the case, finding that the way the DOJ’s administrative law judges act does not adhere to the Constitution.

The proceedings before the judges “are unconstitutional because the attorney general is not allowed to review” their decisions, he said.

The Constitution says presidents must appoint federal “principal officers,” although Congress can authorize the head of departments to appoint “inferior officers.” Those inferior officers, though, must be “directed and supervised” by a principal officer. The judges are not inferior officers because they’re not supervised, according to the ruling.

If the proceedings were not paused, SpaceX “will likely suffer irreparable injury,” Judge Olvera added.

He also addressed how the judges cannot be directly removed by a president. Judges can only be removed by board members, who themselves can be removed by a president. That structure may be unconstitutional but the removal restrictions are severable by the courts, he said.

The appeals court in the SEC case, which is set to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, found that because presidents cannot directly remove the administrative law judges, they are unconstitutionally insulated from the chief executive.

A judge who dissented disagreed, creating a split decision that the nation’s top court will resolve.