Elon Musk’s SpaceX has reportedly fired employees behind an internal letter that called on management to publicly distance itself from its polarizing CEO.
President and operations chief Gwynne Shotwell informed the staff that the company has investigated and “terminated a number of employees involved” with the letter, according to a report in the New York Times.
Shotwell wrote others had been made to feel “uncomfortable, intimidated, and bullied” and were pressured into supporting something that did not reflect their views.
“We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism,” the company’s COO wrote.
Musk has come under increasing criticism ever since the eccentric entrepreneur announced plans to acquire Twitter in a $44 billion deal to protect free speech on the platform and bring back conservative voices. More recently, it emerged that SpaceX may have paid $250,000 to a flight attendant who alleged he had propositioned her for sex.
Although no details are known about the number of authors involved, the signature campaign was started by SpaceX employees claiming to be representative of staff in terms of gender, ethnicity, seniority, and technical roles at the company.
First obtained by The Verge, the letter demanded SpaceX condemn the “embarrassment” of Musk’s Twitter behavior, calling on management to “swiftly and explicitly separate itself from Elon’s personal brand” within a month’s time.
The authors also criticized superiors for fostering “a culture that treats employees as consumable resources.”
No details are known about how many of the 12,000 employees saw or signed the letter, or whether any of their concerns will be addressed by management in a different format.
SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fortune.
The decision to fire organizers linked to the letter earned scorn among some on social media that said the sacking was hypocritical for a CEO who claims to be a “free-speech absolutist.”
Others took sides with management, arguing employees should not have posed ultimatums about a CEO who grew the company from a startup 20 years ago to a leader in the commercial space flight industry.
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