Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is charged with toxic culture and safety issues

Former and current employees of Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and one of the richest people in the world, say the company is full of sexism, intolerant of employees who dare, their bosses to contradict and be negligent security.

The allegations, including the charges of sexual harassment by company executives, were made in an essay written by 21 employees and former employees and posted on the Lioness website on Thursday. Only one former employee identified herself. The essay also suggested there were safety concerns about New Shepard, the vehicle that flew Mr Bezos and three other passengers to the edge of space in July.

“In the opinion of an engineer who signed this paper, Blue Origin was lucky enough nothing happened so far,” said the essay writers. “Many of the authors of this essay say they would not fly a Blue Origin vehicle.”

The next New Shepard flight is scheduled for October 12, and one of the four paying passengers said his plans have not changed.

“I am convinced of Blue Origin’s safety program, spacecraft and track record, and I certainly would not fly with them if it weren’t for me,” Glen de Vries, vice chairman of life sciences and health at French software company Dassault Systèmes, said in a message via Twitter. “I was there, met people at all levels of the company and everything I saw was an indication of a great team and a great culture.”

The other announced passenger, Chris Boshuizen, a co-founder of Planet Labs, a satellite operator, did not respond to a request for comment.

Alexandra Abrams, the public speaking essay writer, is a former employee communications director at Blue Origin. She was fired from the company in 2019. She also appeared on “CBS Mornings” on Thursday.

“You can’t create a culture of security and fear at the same time,” Ms. Abrams told CBS. “You are not compatible.”

A statement by a Blue Origin spokesman said Ms. Abrams was fired for cause in 2019 after being repeatedly warned about issues related to federal export control regulations. Ms. Abrams said she never received any verbal or written warnings.

The company also denied the culture and security allegations.

“Blue Origin does not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment,” said the spokesman. “We offer our employees numerous options, including an anonymous hotline around the clock, and we will investigate new allegations of misconduct immediately. We stand by our safety record and believe that the New Shepard is the safest spacecraft ever designed or built. “

Mr. Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2000. The company, along with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, is part of a wave of companies aiming to lower the cost of launching rockets and opening up space for private businesses and space tourists.

In July it had its greatest success to date: a successful maiden flight of the New Shepard vehicle with people on board. This spaceship is too small to go into orbit around the earth; Instead, it reaches more than 60 miles above the ground, offers a few minutes of weightlessness, and then falls back to earth, braked by parachutes. In addition to the July flight, it made 16 successful takeoffs with no people on board.

But apart from the introduction of Mr. Bezos, Blue Origin was caught up in bad news for the remainder of this year. In the spring, the company failed to get an order from NASA to build a lander to bring astronauts back to the lunar surface. Blue Origin appealed the decision to the federal government’s accountability office and lost. Now she is suing NASA in the US federal court.

The Verge website reported Wednesday that NASA lawyers had dismissed Blue Origin’s complaints.

“Blue Origin now realizes that it has gambled and lost and is trying to use GAO’s procurement oversight role to inappropriately force NASA to shoulder the consequences of Blue Origin’s poorly thought-out decisions,” the lawyers wrote in an internal report dated May 26th.

The Lioness Essay describes a toxic, sexist culture at Blue Origin. “Past and current employees have had experiences that they can only describe as dehumanizing and are afraid of the possible consequences if they speak out against the richest man in the world,” says the essay.

The essay also states that corporate officials are now pushing to launch New Shepard at breakneck speeds of more than 40 flights a year and that certain operations are understaffed, which poses security risks.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates missile launches to keep the public safe, issued a statement saying it will review the information in the essay like all security allegations.

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