Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin described as ‘toxic’ and putting ‘billionaire space race’ before safety in essay by 21 ex-employees

Company has denied claims and insists it has ‘no tolerance’ for discrimination or harassment

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Thursday 30 September 2021 22:58
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Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin Described As ‘Toxic’ And Putting ‘Billionaire Space Race’ Before Safety In Essay By 21 Ex-employees

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Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin has been described as a “toxic” workplace that has put the “billionaire space race” before safety in an open essay written by 21 former and current employees.

The essay claims that the Amazon entrepreneur’s company pushes workers into signing strict nondisclosure agreements, disregards safety concerns, creates a sexist environment for women and smothers internal feedback.

It was written by Blue Origin’s former head of employee communications Alexandra Abrams, who says it was co-signed by 20 other current and former employees who have not been named.

“I’ve gotten far enough away from it that I’m not afraid enough to let them silence me anymore,” Ms Abrams said in a CBS interview.

Responding to the claims, Blue Origin vice president of communications Linda Mills said Ms Abrams was “dismissed for cause” in 2019, following “repeated warnings for issues involving federal export control regulations”.

“Blue Origin has no tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind,” Ms Mills added in a statement.

“We provide numerous avenues for employees, including a 24/7 anonymous hotline, and will promptly investigate any new claims of misconduct.”

The essay accused the company, founded by Mr Bezos, of suppressing safety concerns about its rockets as they competed against Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

And it claimed that many of the company’s own employees would not feel safe flying in a Blue Origin vehicle as they believe it did not follow proper safety protocols.

Ms Abrams told CBS on Thursday that in 2018 one Blue Origin team documented more than 1,000 safety concerns with the company’s rockets.

But she claims that when she brought up the safety concerns to leadership she was told that the person making the complaint did not have a “high-enough risk tolerance”.

The essay also alleges that numerous executives had been demeaning towards female employees, with one referring to women as “baby girl” and “baby doll”.

“Many of us have spent our careers dreaming of helping to launch a crewed rocket into space and seeing it safely touch back down on Earth,” the essay stated.

“But when Jeff Bezos flew to space this July, we did not share his elation. Instead, many of us watched with an overwhelming sense of unease. Some of us couldn’t bear to watch at all.”

And it added: “If this company’s culture and work environment are a template for the future Jeff Bezos envisions, we are headed in a direction that reflects the worst of the world we live in now, and sorely needs to change.”

Mr Bezos was onboard the company’s first human mission to the edge of space in July, along with his brother Mark Bezos, Mark Bezos, Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen.

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