Amazon Engineer Has Had Enough, Saying the Company is Not Safeguarding Employees
After Amazon fired two workers who raised safety concerns about COVID-19 in the workplace, one of the company’s senior engineer quit, saying he has had enough.
Tim Bray, a senior engineer at Amazon, resigned last week over concerns about the company’s decision to fire workers who were outspoken critics of the company’s labor policies. In a blog post, Bray said he “snapped” when he learned the workers were fired for raising concerns over Amazon’s climate stance and treatment of warehouse workers. These two workers were not the only ones fired after raising concerns about conditions.
Unfortunately, Amazon does not have the best reputation when it comes to warehouse conditions and its treatment of workers. Recently, during this pandemic, many workers have taken to protests about company policies regarding social distancing, long hours, lack of unemployment benefits and more. In March, an Amazon worker was fired after organizing a protest about the company’s paid sick leave policies and pay. The worker, Chris Smalls, said he was fired for organizing the strike, but Amazon said it dismissed Smalls because he violated social distancing rules while he was supposed to be under quarantine after being exposed to a co-worker who tested positive for the coronavirus.
Last week, after workers Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa were fired for raising more concerns, Tim Bray resigned after five years at Amazon. In a blog post titled “Bye, Amazon,” Bray—a vice president at Amazon Web Services (AWS), said he just “snapped.”
“I quit in dismay at Amazon firing whistleblowers who were making noise about employees frightened of Covid-19,” Bray wrote in the blog post, adding that “remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised. So I resigned.”
Before his resignation, Bray had supported an employee advocacy group, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, which Cunningham and Costa were also part of. He also signed an April letter to CEO Jeff Bezos and Amazon’s board of directors, which received over 8,700 signatures calling on the company to develop a comprehensive climate change plan.
While Bray’s resignation does not bode well for Amazon and its public image, Cunningham said she values Bray and his “integrity” and for “doing the right thing” by resigning from his role. Bray’s move could mean similar moves from other corporate Amazon employees who want to see meaningful changes at the company.
“I think people in general want to work for companies that they feel proud of,” Cunningham said. “Amazon has an incredible opportunity to lead both in the coronavirus crisis and with the climate, but it has to start by listening to workers instead of firing us.”
In response to Costa and Cunningham’s firing, Amazon workers around the country have jumped into further action. Earlier this month, Amazon employees participated in a “sick out” to show support for Costa and Cunningham, as well as other warehouse workers. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice estimates that “well over 500 tech workers” participated in the sick out.
Amazon has said it has done many things to keep workers safe during this pandemic, including providing hand sanitizer, helping employees social distance from one another, taking employees’ temperatures when they report to work and providing them with facemasks. It said it plans to purchase safety gear for workers and build out its coronavirus testing capabilities, among other things.
Still, Bray says that he sees the company’s efforts but also believes the warehouse workers’ cries—adding that the criticism of the company and its practices extend beyond its response to the coronavirus.
“At the end of the day, the big problem isn’t the specifics of the Covid-19 response,” Bray said. “It’s that Amazon treats the humans in the warehouses as fungible units of pick-and-pack potential.”