Twitter employees demand ‘safety, protection, and dignity’ in open letter

Just when the sale of Twitter to Elon Musk couldn’t get any more dramatic, the tech giant’s employees have drafted an open letter demanding no layoffs, no political discrimination against employees, and no more threats.

“A threat to workers at Twitter is a threat to Twitter’s future,” the letter reads. “We cannot do our work in an environment of constant harassment and threats. Without our work, there is no Twitter.”

The letter is addressed to ‘Staff, Elon Musk, and Board of Directors,’ but the enclosed demands are made of current and future leadership. Leaked communication between Musk and a potential investor prompted the employee response, as Musk indicated plans to cut Twitter’s workforce by a whopping 75% should the sale proceed as planned.

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.

‘But wait,’ you may think. ‘If Musk wants to slash his workforce by 75%, then what power do these employees have over him? What can they threaten him with? Quitting?

Nevertheless, an unspecified number of workers felt empowered to demand protection from any layoffs, any changes to their benefits, and any changes to their ability to work remotely, regardless of new leadership.

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

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.

Musks’ purchase of Twitter will be either finalized or cancelled by this Friday. If the deal falls through, Twitter’s lawsuit over the billionaire’s previous attempts to back out will proceed.

Eliminating three-quarters of the workforce — just over 5,600 people — is certainly a radical step. But the demand to ‘preserve the current headcount’ at any cost is ridiculous. Last year Twitter spent $1.5 billion on headcount alone, with a median employee salary of $240,000 ($308,000 for engineers). That matters because Twitter is nowhere near as profitable as some of its competitors, a struggle that has only worsened over the last sixth months. As the Washington Post summarizes:

The months-long roller-coaster saga of Musk’s on-again off-again bid for ownership — coupled with a tense legal battle — has left Twitter battered and bruised. It faces significant worker attrition, slowed hiring, stalled projects and a volatile stock price.

So if Musk is willing to overpay for the site (at a whopping $44 billion), a “bloated” workforce demanding complete immunity is simply laughable. It also seems that, despite public assurances otherwise, Twitter was planning for cutbacks well before Musk came onto the scene.

Of course, it’s not yet clear how many employees actually signed on to this letter. It was still in draft form when it first began circulating the web on Monday.

The letter is easy to criticize regardless. Disagreeing with Musk’s radical proposal is one thing, but crafting this glorified list of demands was not a wise move. Remember how Elon Musk dealt with the last open letter he received?