One of Amazon’s top cloud engineers has left his $US1 ($2) million dollar-per-year job in protest over the company’s handling of worker concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic. In a blog post, he cited Amazon’s “chickenshit” response to employee protests of the company’s less-than-ideal conditions for the tens of thousands of workers on warehouse floors.
Tim Bray, who’d hopped on board as a VP and Distinguished Engineer at Amazon Web Services following a four-year run at Google, published a blog post early Monday morning laying out his stance on some of the company’s abysmal treatment of warehouse workers, explaining that, “remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions [he] despised.” Rather than offering his tacit agreement, Bray resigned on May first, after roughly six years with the company.
Reading through Bray’s umbrages with the company reads somewhat like a rundown the company’s greatest hits of employee mistreatment over the past few months. The lynchpin that kicked thing off, apparently, started last September, when reports came out that the tech giant was looking to fire the employees who’d organised a public strike against the company’s abysmal stance on climate-related issues.
Per Bray, the coronavirus just brought this simmer of labour-related rage to something of a boil:
Fast-forward to the Covid-19 era. Stories surfaced of unrest in Amazon warehouses, workers raising alarms about being uninformed, unprotected, and frightened. Official statements claimed every possible safety precaution was being taken. Then a worker organising for better safety conditions was fired, and brutally insensitive remarks appeared in leaked executive meeting notes where the focus was on defending Amazon “talking points.”
Things only continued to escalate after those notes were leaked. Last month, Amazon officially let go Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, two Amazon employees that were at the forefront of publicly critiquing the company’s stance on climate issues. A few days after the firings, another warehouse worker—28-year-old Bashir Mohammed—was let go after calling for increased protection against the pandemic. That firing came just days after one Amazon warehouse worker had died of coronavirus complications from conditions within the company’s warehouses.
In his blog, Bray explained that these actions on Amazon’s behalf were what led to his eventual “snap,” and used some choice words to describe the firings:
“Kill the messenger.”
“Never heard of the Streisand effect.”
“Designed to create a climate of fear.”
“Like painting a sign on your forehead saying ‘Either guilty, or has something to hide.’”
“At the end of the day, the big problem isn’t the specifics of Covid-19 response. It’s that Amazon treats the humans in the warehouses as fungible units of pick-and-pack potential,” he went on. “Only that’s not just Amazon, it’s how 21st-century capitalism is done.”
Amazon did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment on Bray’s post.
Bray added that he’s ultimately confident that Amazon is, in fact, working to “prioritise” warehouse safety, citing “detailed descriptions” heard from people he trusts within the company. That said, these changes are only coming after multiple deaths happening on warehouse floors, not to mention negative press from New York’s Attorney General, along with more backlash from more than a dozen other AG’s. It’s getting harder and harder to take the tech giant at its word, but let’s hope, for the worker’ sakes, there’s a bit of truth there.