SpaceX chief told employees to ‘focus on your job’ for humanity’s sake after they raised workplace complaints, report says


SpaceX COO Gwynne Shotwell told employees in a 2022 email to “focus on your job and the mission of SpaceX — to get humanity to Mars as quickly as possible,” after they raised workplace complaints in an open letter, Reuters reported.

Shotwell’s email was in response to an open letter written by SpaceX employees that criticized the company’s dismissive attitude toward employee concerns and inconsistent enforcement of discipline policies, per the report.

Nine employees were fired for raising complaints in the letter — and eight of those have since filed unfair labor practice complaints with the National Labor Relations Board.

One major area of concern for employees at the company is the company’s safety procedures.

The Reuters investigation found that at least 600 SpaceX workers were injured since 2014 at its facilities across the US, noting that prior to 2021 and 2022, the workplaces often did not submit the required data.

The findings showed that SpaceX’s average injury rates at three of the facilities far outpaced that of the wider space industry, which stood at 0.8 injuries per 100 workers in 2022, per the report. The Brownsville, Texas, site had an average injury rate of 4.8 injuries per 100 workers in 2022, Hawthorne, California, was at 1.8, and McGregor, Texas, was at 2.7.

According to the report, among the injuries were nine workers who suffered head injuries, including one traumatic brain injury, and 17 who had their hands or fingers “crushed.”

Other issues at the SpaceX facilities were also detailed by current and former workers, including one former welder at the Brownsville site who told Reuters that workers took the stimulant Adderall without prescriptions and that some would sleep in bathrooms at the site.

Others said that employees who were tasked with welding rockets in tents worked in extreme temperatures of up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and were given IV treatments to continue working if they suffered from the heat.

Musk’s seemingly relaxed attitude to safety was also apparent in his visits to the facilities, with four employees telling Reuters that Musk would sometimes play with a novelty flamethrower that can shoot a flame over five feet and that he preferred workers not to wear safety yellow due to his dislike of bright colors.

SpaceX’s mission “to go to Mars as fast as possible and save humanity permeates every part of the company,” Tom Moline, a former SpaceX engineer who was fired after he made workplace complaints, told Reuters.

“The company justifies casting aside anything that could stand in the way of accomplishing that goal, including worker safety,” he said.

SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment from Insider, which was made outside of regular working hours.

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