Twitter employees protest Elon Musk’s plan to fire 75% of staff in open letter


Twitter employees have penned an open letter slamming Elon Musk’s plans to fire as much as three-quarters of the company’s workforce ahead of the deadline for his $44 billion acquisition, which must be completed by Friday or be settled in court.

In the scathing note circulated Monday, staffers called the prospective layoffs ‘reckless’ and a ‘transparent act of worker intimidation,’ less than a week after The Washington Post aired internal documents that seemingly laid bare the plot.

The plans coincide with previous statements from Musk that the social media company is bloated, and that its 7,500 workforce suffers from a ‘strong left-wing bias.’

Moreover, the proposal – based on leaked conversations Musk had with prospective funders of his acquisition over the past few months – would leave the company with just 2,000 employees.

Musk, meanwhile, must complete the acquisition by Friday or face the resumption of a lawsuit in a Delaware court. If found liable for flubbing the transaction, the Tesla CEO could be forced to fork over as much as $1billion.

Elon Musk’s plans to fire as much as three-quarters of the company’s workforce ahead of the deadline for his $44 billion acquisition – which must be completed by Friday – has angered staffers at the social media giant

Staffers at the social media giant are likely hoping for that to happen – though even without Musk at the helm, big cuts are expected. 

Corporate documents and interviews with people familiar with the company’s deliberations have revealed the company’s management plans to pare its payroll by roughly $800million in 2023, by nixing nearly a quarter of its workforce.

Nonetheless, staffers at the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters circulated the strong worded notice addressed to Musk, the board of directors, and other workers, calling for Musk and management ‘to cease these negligent layoff threats.’ 

An unpublished draft of the letter read: ‘Elon Musk’s plan to lay off 75% of Twitter workers will hurt Twitter’s ability to serve the public conversation.   

‘A threat of this magnitude is reckless, undermines our users’ and customers’ trust in our platform, and is a transparent act of worker intimidation.’

The plans coincide with previous statements from Musk that the San Francisco-based company is bloated, and that its 7,500 workforce suffers from a 'strong left-wing bias'

The plans coincide with previous statements from Musk that the San Francisco-based company is bloated, and that its 7,500 workforce suffers from a ‘strong left-wing bias’

The proposal - based on leaked conversations Musk had with prospective funders of his acquisition over the past few months - would leave the company with just 2,000 employees

The proposal – based on leaked conversations Musk had with prospective funders of his acquisition over the past few months – would leave the company with just 2,000 employees

The letter went on to demand Musk, if going forward with the deal, commits to preserving Twitter’s current headcount.

It also requests Musk, a notorious libertarian who has demonstrated a preference toward the right in recent months, does not discriminate against employees based on their political beliefs.

The letter instead demands Musk commit to ‘fair’ severance policies and more transparent communication about working conditions – while asserting that staffers ‘will not be intimidated’ by the 51-year-old multibillionaire.

‘A threat to workers at Twitter is a threat to Twitter’s future,’ the notice, viewed by DailyMail.com, reads.

‘These threats have an impact on us as workers and demonstrate a fundamental disconnect with the realities of operating Twitter. 

‘They threaten our livelihoods, access to essential healthcare, and the ability for visa holders to stay in the country they work in.’

Staffers went on to write that ‘we cannot do our work in an environment of constant harassment and threats,’ and that ‘without [their] work, there is no Twitter.’

‘We, the workers at Twitter, will not be intimidated,’ the notice, which asked for signatures in support from fellow staffers, continued. 

‘We recommit to supporting the communities, organizations, and businesses who rely on Twitter. We will not stop serving the public conversation.’

The notice went on to provide a list of demands of ‘current and future’ Twitter leadership, with four subheads titled ‘Respect,’ ‘Safety,’ ‘Protection,’ and ‘Dignity.’

‘We demand to be treated with dignity, and to not be treated as mere pawns in a game played by billionaires,’ the latter portion of the list asserts, with the other requests largely dealing with company culture and political correctness. 

Twitter executives, meanwhile, have denied any layoffs, with General Counsel Sean Edgett telling employees Thursday to expect ‘tons of public rumors and speculations’ as the deadline for Musk’s highly publicized takeover looms.

The Tesla CEO has since said the $44billion he agreed to pay for the faltering company is too much, and had sought to reduce that number, before backtracking less than two weeks ago and agreeing on the price.

The corporation had already been planning to layoff a quarter of its employees and make cuts to its infrastructure

Musk in April agreed to buy Twitter for $54.20 per outstanding share,  but, weeks later, sought to terminate the deal, citing concerns over the prevalence of bots on the platform and later adding claims from a company whistleblower about alleged ‘egregious’ security failings at the company. 

Twitter subsequently sued Musk, the world’s richest man valued at $214billion, to follow through with the acquisition.

Since July, the two sides have been embroiled in a bitter legal battle ahead of a planned trial poised to begin on October 17, when Musk told Twitter brass he wanted to move forward with the deal at the originally agreed upon $44billion. 

The judge overseeing the case, Delaware Chancery Court Chancellor Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick, subsequently gave the sides until Friday to finish deliberating – or face a November trial.

Twitter has since appeared to take increased steps toward closing the deal, with Bloomberg reporting last week that the company had frozen employees’ stock accounts in anticipation of the transaction’s close.

Further reports indicated that lawyers for both Musk and Twitter were preparing the paperwork necessary to close the deal. 

Musk, meanwhile, recently told Tesla shareholders that he was ‘excited’ about the longwinded purchase, while also ‘obviously overpaying’ for it.

Despite this, many have aired concerns about whether the financing Musk had originally lined up to purchase the currently struggling social media platform would come through as expected after he spent months disparaging the company online.

What’s more, in recent months, the overall market, including for social media stocks, has largely declined, forcing Musk to turn to a mix of debt and equity financing to fund the deal.

The CEO is also reportedly putting up his own money, much of it likely from sales of his Tesla shares. 

Some experts have said that Musk may need to sell billions more worth of Tesla shares to fund the deal – a move that recently became easier as the company reported quarterly earnings last week. 

However, it will also be more costly, as the car maker’s share price has also declined.

Twitter shares briefly dipped Friday following a Bloomberg report that Biden administration officials were in early discussions about possibly subjecting some of Musk’s ventures to national security reviews.

Shares have since risen by roughly 4 percent to $52.50 as of 10 am Tuesday, two dollars short of the Tesla CEO’s initial agreed deal amount per share.

Twitter shares briefly dipped Friday following a Bloomberg report that Biden administration officials were in early discussions about possibly subjecting some of Musk¿s ventures to national security reviews. Shares have since risen by roughly 4 percent to $52.50 as of 10 am Tuesday, two dollars short of the Tesla CEO's initial agreed deal amount per share

Twitter shares briefly dipped Friday following a Bloomberg report that Biden administration officials were in early discussions about possibly subjecting some of Musk’s ventures to national security reviews. Shares have since risen by roughly 4 percent to $52.50 as of 10 am Tuesday, two dollars short of the Tesla CEO’s initial agreed deal amount per share

Experts, meanwhile, say users would immediately feel the effect of the massive job cuts Musk is proposing.

Edwin Chen, a data scientist formerly in charge of Twitter’s spam and health metrics who is now CEO of content moderation start-up Surge AI, said that while he believed Twitter was overstaffed, the cuts Musk proposed were ‘unimaginable.’

He said they would put Twitter’s users at risk of hacks and even exposure to offensive materials like child pornography.

‘It would be a cascading effect where you’d have service going down and the people remaining not having the institutional knowledge to get them back up, and being completely demoralized and wanting to leave themselves,’ Chen told the Post. 

But Nell Minow, a corporate governance expert, said the Tesla CEO was likely just shopping ambitious plans to potential investors — and will have trouble following through with the proposals.

‘He’s got to be able to show if he makes those cuts, what happens next?’ she asked. ‘What’s he gonna replace it with, AI?’

Musk has suggested in the past he planned to layoff employees as part of his planned changes to the social media giant. The Tesla CEO is pictured here in 2015

Musk has suggested in the past he planned to layoff employees as part of his planned changes to the social media giant. The Tesla CEO is pictured here in 2015

Documents obtained by the Washington Post, though, suggest executives were already planning to enact layoffs at the company after its exorbitant personnel costs last year.

It also spent hundreds of millions of dollars in contracting firms that pay people to review reports of hate speech, child pornography and other rule-breaking content.

But Musk expanded on the idea of layoffs, telling employees in June he didn’t see a reason why low-performing workers should remain on the payroll.

He has also made clear he plans to loosen content moderation standards — which he claims are infringing on free speech — and restore former President Donald Trump’s account as soon as he takes ownership of the company.

The Tesla CEO even posted a meme last week of himself, Kanye West and Trump each holding a sword for a social media company. It was quickly deleted. 

But the new corporate documents, based on conversations with executives over the past few months, shed light on exactly how Musk plans to transform Twitter and make it more profitable.

To help fix these problems, the Post reports, Musk has told associates he thinks that dramatically reducing the number of employees is the first step to executing a turnaround strategy.

He could then bring in more effective workers and expand new services he believes can bring in more revenue, like a subscription business — though employees told the Post they do not believe subscriptions would be profitable and may instead harm its business model. 

The company is also planning to institute a performance review system called stack raking, which requires managers to grade employees on a numerical curve so that a set percentage of workers will always be marked as low performers.

Employees have protested the move, but Twitter executives say it is a common practice among tech companies. 

Still, Musk would face an uphill battle to save the struggling company, despite promising investors he plans to double revenue in three years and would triple the number of daily users that could view ads during that time.

He has offered little information about how he would accomplish these goals, and has admitted to investors that he paid too much for the company.

Musk’s $54.20 per share offer was around a third higher than Twitter’s price at the time and by Thursday, Twitter was trading at $52.44, up more than 11 percent over the month, but still nearly 13 percent lower than what it was trading at last year. 

The company has never reached the profit margins of other social media sites like Meta or Snap, the Post reports.

And following Musk’s takeover bid, droves of employees left, with one telling the New York Post that the workers have lost respect for top executives like CEO Parag Agrawal over his dealings with the Tesla CEO.

At the same time, the company is not hiring as many new personnel and has stalled projects as its stock prices plummeted.

Twitter has since been found to falsify its monetizable daily active users, the number of users who can see ads on the site.

Executives haves said that its MDAU is 237.8 million, up nearly 17 percent compared to the same quarter last year.

But document that emerged in Twitter’s court battle with Musk point to the company having far fewer users, with Musk’s side claiming that fewer than 16 million users are able to see the vast majority of ads.

And the time they are spending on the site fell 10 percent over the course of 2021, recovering only slightly in 2022. 

Full text of the open letter circulated by Twitter employees 

Staff, Elon Musk, and Board of Directors:

We, the undersigned Twitter workers, believe the public conversation is in jeopardy.

Elon Musk’s plan to lay off 75% of Twitter workers will hurt Twitter’s ability to serve the public conversation. A threat of this magnitude is reckless, undermines our users’ and customers’ trust in our platform, and is a transparent act of worker intimidation.

Twitter has significant effects on societies and communities across the globe. As we speak, Twitter is helping to uplift independent journalism in Ukraine and Iran, as well as powering social movements around the world.

A threat to workers at Twitter is a threat to Twitter’s future. These threats have an impact on us as workers and demonstrate a fundamental disconnect with the realities of operating Twitter. They threaten our livelihoods, access to essential healthcare, and the ability for visa holders to stay in the country they work in. We cannot do our work in an environment of constant harassment and threats. Without our work, there is no Twitter.

We, the workers at Twitter, will not be intimidated. We recommit to supporting the communities, organizations, and businesses who rely on Twitter. We will not stop serving the public conversation.

We call on Twitter management and Elon Musk to cease these negligent layoff threats. As workers, we deserve concrete commitments so we can continue to preserve the integrity of our platform.

We demand of current and future leadership:

Respect: We demand leadership to respect the platform and the workers who maintain it by committing to preserving the current headcount.

Safety: We demand that leadership does not discriminate against workers on the basis of their race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or political beliefs. We also demand safety for workers on visas, who will be forced to leave the country they work in if they are laid off.

Protection: We demand Elon Musk explicitly commit to preserve our benefits, those both listed in the merger agreement and not (e.g. remote work). We demand leadership to establish and ensure fair severance policies for all workers before and after any change in ownership.

Dignity: We demand transparent, prompt and thoughtful communication around our working conditions. We demand to be treated with dignity, and to not be treated as mere pawns in a game played by billionaires.

Sincerely,

Twitter workers 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk