December 3, 2022

Sapiensdigital

Sapiens Digital

SpaceX Fires Employees Behind Musk Open Letter

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SpaceX has made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that criticism of founder and CEO Elon Musk will not be tolerated. Just days after a group of employees released an open letter criticizing Musk, some of those involved have found themselves out of a job. SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell sent an email (that didn’t address the content of the letter), saying the writers made others “uncomfortable” with the release and violated the company handbook by asking employees to sign the statement.

The letter, released in an internal Microsoft Teams chat with more than 2,600 employees, asked the company to separate itself from Musk’s increasingly erratic online persona. In the weeks since claims of sexual misconduct surfaced, Musk has used his Twitter account to speak out against “wokeness,” low birth rates, and Democrats. 

Shotwell’s letter, released by The Verge, notes that this is a busy time for SpaceX. It has multiple launches coming up in the next week, and it has to support the recently launched Dragon cargo mission. SpaceX is also moving toward the first orbital launch of Starship this summer. The open letter claimed that Elon Musk’s online behavior is a distraction to the team, but Shotwell says, no, it’s the letter that was the distraction. 

Elon Musk has been locked in an increasingly bizarre public battle to complete his purchase of Twitter, an effort he claims is about free speech. Twitter has come under fire from conservatives for its decision to suppress COVID and election misinformation, as well as the banning of former president Trump. Despite calling himself a “free speech absolutist,” Musk has routinely cracked down on dissent at his companies — the latest firings at SpaceX are just the most recent example. 

It’s unclear how many employees have gotten the axe following the letter’s release, but the document originally said it was the product of weeks of feedback from employees across the company at varying levels of seniority. The group sought to have more employees sign on, either by name or anonymously. Shotwell’s letter calls this an example of “overreaching activism.” At least one employee, who is remaining anonymous for obvious reasons, says Shotwell’s email is seen as “tone deaf” by staff. However, it’s unlikely anyone will say that out loud now.

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