Current, Former Blue Origin Staff Pen Scathing Essay

Former comms chief says Jeff Bezos' company ignores safety concerns
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 1, 2021 6:44 AM CDT
Essay by Current, Ex-Blue Origin Staff: Workplace Is 'Dehumanizing'
In this Sept. 19, 2019, file photo, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

(Newser) – "Blue Origin's culture sits on a foundation that ignores the plight of our planet, turns a blind eye to sexism, is not sufficiently attuned to safety concerns, and silences those who seek to correct wrongs." So claim 21 current and former employees of Jeff Bezos' spaceflight company in a scathing essay on the Lioness website, which the Washington Post notes serves as a whistleblower portal on stories of workplace misconduct. Penned by Blue Origin's ex-chief of communications Alexandra Abrams—and co-signed by 20 other current and former workers at the company who remain nameless—the essay alleges that the firm's culture is a "toxic" and "dehumanizing" one, with multiple issues that need addressing.

The essay claims Blue Origin's workforce is "mostly male and overwhelmingly white," and that women have had a particularly tough time in the discriminatory and demeaning environment that exists there. One allegation claims a former exec said to be close to Bezos repeatedly sexually harassed female employees and was only fired when he groped a subordinate. Workers were also made to sign rigid nondisclosure agreements that made it hard to speak up about concerns. In terms of the safety issues, one engineer who signed the essay believes that "Blue Origin has been lucky that nothing has happened so far."

They write that safety is "for many of us is the driving force for coming forward with this essay. At Blue Origin, a common question during high-level meetings was, 'When will Elon or Branson fly?' Competing with other billionaires—and 'making progress for Jeff'—seemed to take precedence over safety concerns that would have slowed down the schedule." CBS News spoke with two unnamed former employees who said they wouldn't be comfortable riding in a Blue Origin spacecraft. The essay also cites environmental concerns, claiming they've "never been a priority" at Blue Origin, the company's "splashy" promotions on green efforts notwithstanding.

"I've gotten far enough away from it that I'm not afraid enough to let them silence me anymore," Abrams tells CBS News. Blue Origin has responded, noting in a brief statement that Abrams was "dismissed for cause two years ago after repeated warnings" over federal export control regulations, and that it stands by its safety record. As for everything else, the company "has no tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind" and notes that it will "promptly investigate any new claims of misconduct." (Read the essay in its entirety here.)

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