SpaceX staff condemn Musk's behavior in open letter

Well, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see why

A group of employees at SpaceX wrote an open letter to COO and president Gwynne Shotwell denouncing owner Elon Musk's public behavior and calling for the rocket company to "swiftly and explicitly separate itself" from his personal brand.

The letter, which was acquired through anonymous SpaceX sources, calls Musk's recent behavior in the public sphere a source of distraction and embarrassment. Musk's tweets, the writers argue, are de facto company statements because "Elon is seen as the face of SpaceX."

Musk's freewheeling tweets have landed him in hot water on multiple occasions – one incident even leaving him unable to tweet about Tesla without a lawyer's review and approval. 

The billionaire's personal life, specifically "events in recent weeks," are cited in the letter as well. While it's unclear which of the many possible examples is being cited, it recently came out that SpaceX paid $250,000 to a flight attendant who accused Musk of sexually harassing her and exposing himself in 2016. His purchase of Twitter has also been combative, and a glance at Musk's twitter feed quickly brings up questionably offensive memes and conspiracy-laden statements. 

While it's unknown how many of SpaceX's 12,000 employees have signed the letter, The Verge's sources also shared screenshots of a supportive Microsoft Teams discussion between 100-plus employees. The Teams channel where the letter was posted reportedly has more than 2,600 members.

The letter writers say their efforts are aimed at making SpaceX a better place to work. "For all our technical achievements, SpaceX fails to apply [its] principles to the promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion with equal priority across the company."

Recent events, the letter adds, are not isolated incidents. "They are emblematic of a wider culture that underserves many of the people who enable SpaceX's extraordinary accomplishments."

To that end, the letter is calling on SpaceX to live up to its "no asshole" and "zero tolerance" policies, both of which the writers say are applied unequally across the company – especially with regard to Elon Musk. The employees have three demands, which they they would like to discuss in person with the executive team within a month:

  • Address and condemn Musk's Twitter behavior, then take the aforementioned steps to separate SpaceX from Musk's brand
  • Hold leadership equally accountable, by which the writers mean they want leadership to critically assess whether leadership is preventing employees from fully performing their jobs, "treated with the same rigor and urgency as establishing flight rationale after a hardware anomaly"
  • Clearly define and respond to all unacceptable behavior, and establish safe avenues for reporting violations from all levels of employees

The letter didn't say what its authors planned to do if their demands weren't satisfied, though Musk has shown no qualms with unexpectedly slashing workforces or getting rid of employees that don't meet his demands. ®

PS: Musk is being sued in New York for $258 billion over claims he and his tech businesses “engaged in a crypto pyramid scheme by way of dogecoin cryptocurrency.”

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