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SpaceX Employees Fired Over Open Letter Against CEO Elon Musk

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Published: June 17, 2022
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SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell sent an email to a number of SpaceX employees, informing them of their termination from the company. The open letter expressed the dissatisfaction of the drafters regarding Musk’s behavior and reputation. (Image: Daniel Oberhaus via Flicker)

On Thursday, June 16th, several SpaceX employees were fired for sharing an open letter condemning CEO Elon Musk for his behavior. 

The open letter has been received as “overreaching criticism” by the aerospace company, casting more shade into the workings of a business operated by a controversial figure.

A letter to Musk

First shared on The Verge, the open letter was written on behalf of a few employees, who all expressed their dissatisfaction towards Elon Musk’s behavior. According to the letter, Musk’s behavior was “a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks.”

The letter makes note of SpaceX’s “No Asshole” policy — which is claimed to promote an overwhelmingly positive working environment free of negativity — and encourages the company to “publicly address and condemn Elon’s harmful Twitter behavior.” The recent sexual allegations made against Musk have also dented the image of the company.

“As our CEO and most prominent spokesperson, Elon is seen as the face of SpaceX — every Tweet that Elon sends is a de facto public statement by the company. It is critical to make clear to our teams and to our potential talent pool that his messaging does not reflect our work, our mission, or our values,” the letter reads. 

It is unknown which employees have written the letter, nor have the employees reached back for comment. 

The letter also calls for three “action items” to solve the problem, including “publicly addressing and condemning Elon’s harmful Twitter behavior”; calling for the company to “hold all leadership equally accountable” for bad behavior; and requiring SpaceX to “clearly define what exactly is intended by SpaceX’s ‘no-asshole’ and ‘zero tolerance’ policies and enforce them consistently.”

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SpaceX’s retaliation

Through an email by SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell, a number of the employees behind the letter were fired on Thursday. The email said that SpaceX “terminated a number of employees involved” in the letter’s conception, stating that it “made employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied, and/or angry.” 

“We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism,” the email read.

One of the employees behind the letter said that Shotwell’s email was “tone deaf”, based on the overall feelings among their peers. The letter, to the employees, took a “month of dedicated hard work and soliciting feedback to try and make sure we got as much input as possible.”

The Verge has the full email by Shotwell in their article on the matter.

“I am sorry for this distraction. Please stay focused on the SpaceX mission, and use your time at work to do your best work. This is how we will get to Mars,” the email’s final passage read.

At the moment, Elon Musk has been wrapped up in controversy; one of which is regarding an employee who claimed to have been sexually harassed by the CEO.

Musk’s Twitter endeavors have also spawned more viral controversy, though he is willing to continue with the ownership of the social media platform.