Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin Has A Toxic Work Culture, Say Employees Reporting Safety Risks, Sexual Harassment And Even 'Suicidal Thoughts'
In a letter signed by about 21 Blue Origin employees, Jeff Bezos' company is described as' toxic '. They detail that they have been subjected to safety risks, sexual and workplace harassment, and other unethical practices for prioritizing advances in the space race.
It seems that Amazon workers aren't the only ones complaining about labor policies at Jeff Bezos' companies. This Thursday, 21 Blue Origin employees published a letter denouncing the "toxic" work culture at the tycoon's aerospace company. In the letter they detail that they have been subjected to security risks, in addition to allowing unethical practices such as sexual and workplace harassment, which has even caused "suicidal thoughts" in some of them.
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The lead author of the letter is Alexandra Abrams , former head of employee communications for Blue Origin . She and a score of current and former employees allege that the company has a pattern of prioritizing speed of execution and cost reduction over quality. They also claim that the company ignored their security concerns and suppressed their comments.
"Competing with other billionaires and 'making progress for Jeff' seemed to take precedence over security concerns that would have delayed the schedule," the publication says.
As an example, they cite an incident in 2018 where a team documented "more than 1,000 incidents involving the engines that power Blue Origin rockets that were never addressed ."
In an interview with CBS , Abrams and five other members of the company said they would not feel safe traveling on a Blue Origin rocket .
Alexandra Abrams, a former head of employee communications for Blue Origin, is speaking out against the company to @LaurieSegall .- CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) September 30, 2021
“You cannot create a culture of safety and a culture of fear at the same time. They are incompatible. " pic.twitter.com/JHuFY3cjcs
“You cannot create a culture of safety and a culture of fear at the same time. They are incompatible, "said Alexandra Abrams, former head of employee communications for Blue Origin.
They also note that when employees mentioned these concerns, managers responded that they were people with "low or insufficient tolerance for risk ." That is, instead of assuming and solving security risks in their processes, it would be the workers' fault not to accept them as part of the job.
High stress, sexism and sexual harassment, the big problems that Blue Origin employees report
In the letter they also denounce that the company is "plagued with sexism" and that the managers acted in a "systematically inappropriate" way with the employees. They report that when incidents of this nature were reported, they were often dismissed or counterproductive for the complainants.
“Women at Blue Origin have been treated absolutely differently than men. Their ideas are not valued as much as theirs, they are not listened to, " said the former head of internal communications.
They cite the case of a senior executive close to Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin , who was denounced several times in Human Resources for sexual harassment . Rather than face consequences, "Smith personally appointed him to the hiring committee to fill a senior human resources position in 2019," Abrams explains.
Another former executive, allegedly close to Bezos, was accused of calling employees with "condescending" nicknames such as 'baby girl' , 'baby doll' or 'sweetheart' . The company ignored the complaints for a long time and only fired him when he groped an employee.
Abrams said she was fired after asking her bosses to help her implement agreements that would allow Blue Origin workers to speak freely about alleged cases of harassment or discrimination that occurred within the company.
In a statement quoted by Forbes , Blue Origin hid, explaining that the former executive was fired from the company two years ago after "repeated warnings" for "problems related to federal export control regulations ."
They also assured that the company "does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind" and that "it will immediately investigate any new claim of misconduct ."
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Jeff Bezos employees face pressure from billionaire to win space race
Workers at Jeff Bezos' aerospace company say they have felt "dehumanized ." They allege that they are pushed to the limit to compete against Elon Musk's Space X and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic . This work stress would have even provoked “suicidal thoughts” in some of them.
"It was great while Blue Origin was calm and steady and slow, until Jeff started to get impatient, and Elon and Branson got ahead of themselves ," Abrams said. "And then we started to feel that increasing pressure and impatience that definitely leaked from the board," he added.
The US Federal Aviation Administration said they are already investigating the letter's security allegations. "The FAA takes all safety complaints seriously and the agency is reviewing the information," they said from the office.
Complaints don't stop Jeff Bezos' space project
Meanwhile, Blue Origin has already announced the date of its next space mission, which will be the aerospace company's second manned tourist flight into space.
On October 12 at 8:30 AM, the New Shepard spacecraft will take off from Launch Site One, in West Texas. On board will be Chris Boshuizen, a former NASA employee , and Glen de Vries, co-founder of the Medidata Solutions platform for clinical research, although they have not released the names of the other two travelers.