Tim Bray, senior engineer and vice president of Amazon Web Services, quit his job because he was “dismayed” that the company had fired whistleblowers trying to raise awareness of Amazon warehouse workers’ plight, he wrote in one Blog post.
“Ultimately, staying an Amazon Vice President would have meant signing the actions I despised,” said Bray. “So I resigned. The victims were not abstract beings, but real people. Here are some of their names: Courtney Bowden, Gerald Bryson, Maren Costa, Emily Cunningham, Bashir Mohammed and Chris Smalls.
Amazon fired Cunningham and Costa, two Seattle-based workers, earlier this month after criticizing the company on Twitter. The two had also criticized Amazon’s climate position, part of the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice group, which called for the company’s AWS department to end its contracts with oil and gas companies. Bray writes that warehouse workers have little power compared to the higher paid employees at AWS in the current structure of the company.
“Ultimately, it’s all about current accounts,” writes Bray. “Warehouse workers are weak and are getting weaker, which has to do with mass unemployment and (in the US) work-related health insurance. So they’re treated like crap because of capitalism. Every plausible solution must start with increasing its collective strength. “
Amazon was left in the dark about numerous complaints about the treatment of its warehouse workers, who said they lack protective equipment, and was kept in the dark as to whether employees tested positive for the virus. In addition to Costa and Cunningham, the company fired six technical workers who had a sick day in April to protest Amazon’s treatment of workers. Amazon also fired New York warehouse worker Chris Smalls, who organized a strike in March. The company said Smalls was fired because he “violated social distance policies and jeopardized the safety of others.”
Later reports suggested that Amazon was planning to publicly smear smalls and discredit the emerging labor movement within its workforce. New York Attorney General Letitia James described the dismissal as “shameful” and urged an investigation by the National Labor Relations Board.
According to Amazon, “firing whistleblowers” is “evidence of a poison vein that runs through corporate culture. I decide not to serve or drink this poison. “
Thank you very much, Tim.https: //t.co/oShy4TQisN
– Emily Cunningham (@emahlee) May 4, 2020
Amazon has hired 175,000 employees in the past few weeks to keep pace with increasing demand for delivery goods amidst the ongoing pandemic. Until May 16, workers’ wages were increased by $ 2 an hour, which is a base hourly rate of $ 17.
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, praised the employees in a message to investors announcing the company’s first quarter results. “We are inspired by all the key people we see at work – nurses and doctors, grocery cashiers, police officers, and our own exceptional front-line staff,” wrote Bezos. He added that the company is expected to spend $ 4 billion on COVID-related fees in the second quarter. “If you’re an Amazon shareholder, you may want to take a seat.”
However, workers say that the company’s efforts have lagged behind expectations, and Bray writes that it is a structural problem that existed prior to COVID-19.
“The big problem is not the peculiarities of the Covid-19 response. It is that Amazon treats the people in the camps as fungible units with pick-and-pack potential,” he wrote, adding that this is nature capitalism of the 21st century. “Amazon is exceptionally well managed and has demonstrated great ability to recognize opportunities and develop repeatable processes to use them. There is a corresponding lack of visions about the human costs of relentless growth and the accumulation of wealth and power. “
Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.