SpaceX fires employees behind open letter criticizing Elon Musk

starhip spacex
Credit: SpaceX

Yesterday, we brought you a report of some SpaceX staff writing an open letter denouncing Elon Musk. The management has swiftly responded by firing the employees that wrote it. Gwynne Shotwell, the president of SpaceX, called the letter-writing ‘overreaching activism.’

A handful of SpaceX employees have been sacked after it came to light that they were behind a letter criticizing Elon Musk. The former employees alleged that the CEO’s behavior was a source of distraction for the workers. They pointed to the recent allegation of sexual harassment by a former company air hostess and Musk’s tweets that sometimes involve crude jokes.

As the de facto face of SpaceX, they felt the public might find it difficult to differentiate between Musk’s personal views and the opinions of SpaceX workers.

In an internal email announcing the termination, which was seen by The Verge, Shotwell said, “The letter, solicitations and general process made employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied, and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign onto something that did not reflect their views. We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism.”

Meanwhile, one of the employees who had a hand in writing the letter said anonymously that the letter was written after a month of input from many fellow employees.

Musk is not new to controversies. He is currently battling with the Securities Exchange Commission to remove the restrictions on what he can post on Twitter, a company that he is trying to buy.

You can read Shotwell’s message in full below:

You may have received an unsolicited request from a small group of SpaceX employees for your signature on an “open letter” yesterday and your participation in a related survey. Based on diverse employee feedback, this has upset many. That is, the letter, solicitations and general process made employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied, and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign onto something that did not reflect their views. Employees also complained that it interfered with their ability to focus on and do their work. We have 3 launches within 37 hours for critical satellites this weekend, we have to support the astronauts we delivered to the ISS and get cargo Dragon back to the flight-ready, and after receiving environmental approval early this week, we are on the cusp of the first orbital launch attempt of Starship. We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism — our current leadership team is more dedicated to ensuring we have a great and ever-improving work environment than any I have seen in my 35-year career.

We solicit and expect our employees to report all concerns to their leadership, senior management, HR, or Legal. But blanketing thousands of people across the company with repeated unsolicited emails and asking them to sign letters and fill out unsponsored surveys during the work day is not acceptable, goes against our documented handbook policy, and does not show the strong judgement needed to work in this very challenging space transportation sector. We performed an investigation and have terminated a number of employees involved.

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.