The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Rush to Profit Injures Workers

Nov 27, 2023

Not only has SpaceX’s massive Starship rocket blown up twice now, with marketing-conscious owner Elon Musk nonetheless declaring each launch attempt a success—but worker injuries are also distressingly high at the company’s industrial sites.

SpaceX employs 13,000 workers and has raked in 11.8 billion dollars from NASA. A Reuters investigation documented 600 injuries of SpaceX workers since 2014. These included broken and crushed bones—some leading to amputations—including a skull fracture, plus concussions, burns, electrocutions, eye injuries, and so on. One worker died from head trauma, and another remains in a coma.

The company told technicians at Brownsville, Texas, to move steel tubing weighing 500 pounds with a crane whose lifting magnet was only designed for 300 pounds. The tubing fell and crushed a worker’s hand. Management shut tents, which closed ventilation essential for safe welding of toxic stainless steel—and the company wouldn’t provide respirators.

SpaceX puts incredible pressure on workers to work harder, faster, and longer. At Brownsville, some workers work more than 80 hours a week, and some take Adderall to stay awake. Workers are not trained enough, and components are not tested enough. Meanwhile, the company leaves workers in charge of their own safety. A former welder said, "There was no accountability.... That’s a terrible approach to take in industrial environments."

SpaceX has failed to report injuries to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for most years since 2016. But other major space companies failed to report, too. At least 24 workers have been killed at work in the space industry since 1980, including three at Virgin Galactic.

These companies market their space-age technology, but management still acts like it’s the days of Charles Dickens or the robber barons.