‘Snapped’ | Amazon exec quits after coronavirus sackings

Amazon exec quits after coronavirus sackings

A top engineer and exec has resigned from Amazon after a five-year tenure with the firm, due to the way in which it handled its response to coronavirus.

Writing in a blog post, Tim Bray, former Vice President of Amazon Web Services, revealed that he had ‘snapped’ and felt ‘dismay’ after the e-commerce giant fired workers who called for greater protections amid the pandemic.

According to the International Business Times, Bray wrote: “I quit in dismay at Amazon firing whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of Covid-19.”

He added that Amazon’s choice to fire whistleblowers indicated that the firm operated with a toxic culture: “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.”

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Bray’s decision comes as more workers at the company took part in a nationwide sick-out last week, citing that Amazon had failed to provide enough face masks for staff, did not implement the regular temperature checks it promised at its warehouses and had refused to give workers paid sick leave, reported The Guardian.

In his blog post, Bray referred to the experiences of Emily Cunningham and Maren Costsa, two user experience designers who Amazon fired in April after they publicly criticised the treatment of warehouse workers.

The former VP later offered five ‘descriptive phrases’ that he thought summed up the firing of the two employees, branding it as ‘chickens**t’, ‘kill the messenger’, ‘never heard of the Streisand effect’, ‘designed to create a climate of fear,” and ‘like painting a sign on your forehead saying either guilty or has something to hide’.

Bray also made reference to activism among warehouse workers, including the likes of Courtney Bowden, Gerald Bryson, Bashir Mohammed and Chris Smalls, all of which were fired for organising.

While Amazon is yet to comment on Bray’s departure, the firm previously released a statement addressing Cunningham and Costa. It said: “We support 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. We terminated these employees for repeatedly violating internal policies.”

Bray went on to condemn Amazon for its treatment of its workers, who he claimed compared the humans in the warehouses to ‘units of pick-and-pack potential’. He stated: “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. Only that’s not just Amazon, it’s how 21st-century capitalism is done.”

This news comes after reports revealed that Amazon could face legal action by the New York’s Attorney General after it was accused of dismissing an employee who organised a walkout protest due to the company’s handling of coronavirus.

Earlier this year, the firm displayed concern for its staff, as it announced plans to ban non-essential employee travel in the US and internationally. However, this isn’t the first time Amazon has faced scrutiny over the treatment of its workers.

In the past, accounts have surfaced regarding the conditions of its workers, with some claiming workers had collapsed on shift, while others had to urinate in bottles because they were too scared to take a break.

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Comments (2)

  • Ladybug
    Tue, 5 May 2020 1:16pm BST
    I applaud Tim Bray's principles and integrity, invaluable character traits that are rare amongst leaders these days. Unfortunately, I suspect Amazon does not have the EQ to ever realise how great the loss.
  • Leo
    Tue, 5 May 2020 1:12pm BST
    Many ways to read this, the story has different lenses. However, either way this is bad press for Amazon


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