Amazon employees walk out due to ‘lack of confidence’

Norman Ray
Norman Ray

Global Courant 2023-06-01 04:16:31

Amazon workers gather for a rally during a strike event at the company’s headquarters on May 31, 2023 in Seattle, Washington.

David Rider | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Amazon workers staged a strike on Wednesday in protest of the company’s recent mandate to return to office, layoffs and environmental performance.

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About 2,000 workers worldwide left work shortly after 3 p.m. EST, and about 1,000 of those workers gathered outside the Spheres, the massive glass domes that anchor Amazon’s Seattle headquarters. according to employee groups behind the effort. The strike was co-organized by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, an influential labor organization that has repeatedly pressed the e-retailer on its climate stance.

The group said employees are walking away to highlight a “lack of confidence in corporate leadership decision-making.” Amazon recently initiated the largest layoffs in its 29-year history, cutting 27,000 jobs since last fall across its cloud computing, advertising and retail divisions, among others. On May 1, the company directed company employees to work from the office at least three days a week, largely ending the remote work arrangements some employees had settled into during the coronavirus pandemic.

Employees gathered on a lawn surrounded by office towers and next to an airstream that provided office goers with free bananas, holding signs that read “Amazon strives harder” and “Earth’s best employer? Stop the PR and listen to us.” One employee shared how working remotely had allowed her to spend more time with her family, while colleagues told her that it allowed them to care for newborns and family members with special needs.

“Today it seems like it’s the beginning of a new chapter in Amazon’s history, as tech workers coming out of the pandemic stood up and said we still want a say in this company and the direction of this company,” said Eliza Pan. , a co-founder of AECJ and former program manager at Amazon. “We still want to have a say in the important decisions that affect our entire lives, and tech workers will stand up for ourselves, for each other, for our families, for the communities in which Amazon operates, and for life on Earth.”

Amazon estimated about 300 workers took part in the strike.

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Amazon workers hold signs during a strike event at the company’s headquarters on May 31, 2023 in Seattle, Washington.

David Rider | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Amazon employees are leaving work at a precarious time within the company. Amazon has just completed staff cuts and continues to factor in the raw economy and slowing retail sales, leading staff to fear further layoffs are in the offing.

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Employees had urged Amazon leadership to scrap the return mandate and drafted a petition addressed to CEO Andy Jassy and the S-Team, a close-knit group of senior executives from nearly every part of Amazon’s business. Employees said the policy “contradicts” Amazon’s views on diversity and inclusion, affordable housing, sustainability and a focus on being the “World’s Best Employer.”

Opposition to the return mandate spilled over to an internal Slack channel, and employees formed a group called Remote Advocacy to voice their concerns.

Amazon employees who moved or were hired for an outside position during the pandemic have expressed concern about how the return policy will affect them, CNBC previously reported. Amazon’s workforce has skyrocketed over the past three years, and it’s been hiring more employees outside of key tech hubs like Seattle, New York, and Northern California as it embraced a more distributed workforce.

The company had previously said it would be left to individual managers to decide what work arrangements work best for their teams.

Amazon spokesperson Brad Glasser said in a statement that the company is pleased so far with the results of the return to office.

“There’s more energy, collaboration and connections, and we’ve heard this from many employees and the businesses around our offices,” added Glasser. “We understand it will take time to get back to the office and there are many teams in the company working hard to make this transition as smooth as possible for employees.”

Amazon says it has 65,000 business and technical employees in the Puget Sound region and about 350,000 business and technical employees worldwide.

Employees are also using the strike to draw attention to concerns that Amazon is failing to meet its climate commitments. They pointed to Amazon’s most recent sustainability report, which showed that carbon emissions in 2021 increased by 40% compared to 2019, the year it unveiled its “Climate Pledge” plan. Staff members also stressed a report last year by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting which found that the company underestimates its carbon footprint by counting only the carbon emissions of products from using Amazon branded goods, not those it buys from manufacturers and sells directly to consumers .

Amazon disputed the Reveal report, saying details surrounding the company’s Scope 3 reporting were incorrect. Amazon follows the guidelines of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard in determining Scope 3 emissions, or emissions generated by a company’s supply chain, Glasser said.

In addition, Amazon recently eliminated one of its climate goals, called Shipment Zero, in which the company pledged to make half of its shipments carbon neutral by 2030. said it would focus on its broader Climate Pledge, which includes a provision to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040, a decade later than its original Shipment Zero pledge.

“Our goal is to change Amazon’s cost-benefit analysis of making harmful, unilateral decisions that have a major impact on people of color, women, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable people,” the group said. .

Glasser said Amazon “continues to push hard” to be net carbon neutral across its entire business by 2040. The company remains on track to reach 100% renewable energy by 2025, he added.

“While we would all love to be there tomorrow, for companies like ours, which are power hungry and have very significant transportation, packaging and physical construction resources, it will take time to get there,” Glasser said.

WATCH: Amazon employees protest sudden return policy

Amazon employees walk out due to ‘lack of confidence’

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