Elon Musk gets a lot attention for being completely terrible but as it turns out, awfulness runs in his family! While Elon Musk is out here pressuring his Tesla employees to show up for work despite California’s stay-at-home order, his younger brother Kimbal is treating his workers terrible in different ways.
Musk the Younger is the owner of the Kitchen Restaurant Group, which operates a number of restaurants in various states, including one chain called Next Door. Musk has pushed Next Door as being all about community. He’s spoken about trust being the foundation of the restaurant. A recruitment video on the company’s website really hammers the idea that the employees are like family.
According to a new report, Musk really did tell his workers they were part of a family. And then the coronavirus hit and he bolted.
HuffPost’s Emily Peck writes that “workers at Next Door did have something called the Family Fund. A pool of money they contributed to out of their paychecks, the fund was supposed to be there for them in times of crisis.” They give up $2.50 out of every paycheck, the Family Fund was nowhere to be found.
Like many restaurants across the country, Next Door locations closed their doors, though Kimbal said the closure was temporary. A lot of employees applied for grants from the fund and were reportedly told in an email that they would be getting “a $400 grant within one to two days.” Instead, Musk closed four of the 11 locations and fired all of those restaurants’ employees. Since the Family Fund is only for current employees, they got nothing.
“Workers in the restaurants, some of whom made the tipped minimum wage of $2.13 an hour, were not given any severance,” Peck writes. “Many have not been paid their accrued sick time.”
When HuffPost reached out to Musk, he basically said that he “helped rally the government for the stimulus package to support workers across the hospitality industry” and that the government could do more for those employees than his fund could. And that’s definitely true. Two dollars a week isn’t a huge chunk of a paycheck (even if he is choosing to only pay his tipped employees the shamefully low federal minimum wage) so the $400 relief checks he promised aren’t much but they do seem proportionate for a fund that probably wasn’t meant to cover all employees at once.
But the way Musk ghosted those workers who he told were “family” is reprehensible. The (former) employees quoted in the article throw out a lot words like “shady,” “sneaky,” “betrayal,” none of which seem wrong. I get that this is a scary time for everyone in the restaurant industry, even the billionaires. But if those billionaires are going to promise the people making $2 an hour that they’re “family” and taking money out of their paycheck every week for the privilege, then they’d better be able to back those promises up.
By the way, Musk did reportedly disperse 21 of those $400 grants after the HuffPost article was published. I’m sure he was going to anyway, right? The timing around being exposed and receiving massive and backlash was just a, uh, coincidence.
(via HuffPost, image: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
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