Amazon VP writes open letter resigning after company fires employees protesting working conditions

‘It’s evidence of a vein of toxicity running through the company culture’

James Crump
Monday 04 May 2020 18:47
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Amazon workers delivery drivers to walk out as part of mass retail protest

Amazon vice president Tim Bray has resigned in response to the company sacking Covid-19 whistleblowers and protesters.

Mr Bray wrote a lengthy open letter to Amazon staff, saying the sackings were “designed to create a climate of fear” in the warehouses.

“I quit in dismay at Amazon firing whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of Covid-19,” said Mr Bray, who had worked for Amazon for more than five years before his resignation.

A number of Amazon employees have been sacked for protesting and criticising working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic.

In March, Christian Smalls, a supervisor at an Amazon facility in Staten Island, was fired after he organised a walk-out in protest over working conditions.​

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Amazon said he was fired for “putting the health and safety of others at risk and violations of his terms of his employment” and “violating social-distancing guidelines”.

In April, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, who both worked for Amazon in Seattle, were fired after they tweeted criticism of working conditions for warehouse workers.

Amazon told The Washington Post that it was “every employee’s right to criticise their employer’s working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against any and all internal policies”.

Mr Bray said that after two employees were fired last month for planning another protest and criticising the company on climate issues, he “snapped”, and internally raised his concerns about the firings.

He was unable to change the decisions, and said: “That done, remaining an Amazon [vice president] would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised. So I resigned.”

He said that resigning has cost him financially and that he is disappointed to be leaving a job he loved.

“What with big-tech salaries and share vestings, this will probably cost me over a million (pre-tax) dollars, not to mention the best job I’ve ever had, working with awfully good people. So I’m pretty blue,” he wrote.

However, Mr Bray was clear that he believes he made the right decision by resigning.

“Firing whistleblowers isn’t just a side-effect of macroeconomic forces, nor is it intrinsic to the function of free markets.

“It’s evidence of a vein of toxicity running through the company culture. I choose neither to serve nor drink that poison.”​

On 1 May, employees of Amazon, Fedex, Target and many more corporations, went on strike in protest of what they think is a lack of protection for workers against the outbreak.

Last month, in statements to Motherboard, Amazon said protesters are “spreading misinformation and making false claims about Amazon”, and added that the company “objects to the irresponsible actions of labour groups”.

According to a tracking project hosted by Johns Hopkins University, there are now upwards of one million people who have tested positive for coronavirus in the US. The death toll has reached at least 67,710.

Amazon declined to comment on Mr Bray’s letter.

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