Why is Amazon being fired

Dismissed critical employees: Amazon manager resigns and criticizes sharply

Tim Bray hired Amazon five and a half years ago. Since December 2014, the software engineer has been taking care of agendas in the area of ​​the AWS cloud service and has been promoted to one of the department's deputy heads. Although the division is doing better than ever before, he recently announced his departure from the group.

In a blog post, Bray talks about the background to his decision to leave the company. He is massively critical of the dealings with employees who publicly demand changes in terms of climate protection or better protective measures against infection with the corona virus.

Climate protest fell on deaf ears

It all started last year with the "Amazon Employees for Climate Justice" (AECJ) initiative. In an open letter to Amazon's investors and the corporate management, the more than 8,700 participants spoke out in favor of taking significantly more steps to protect the climate. Bray had signed the text too.

But the recipients did not accept the resolution. A few months later, around 3,000 employees took part in a walk-out as part of the global climate strike. Just the day before, Amazon had presented comprehensive plans for a "greener" future for the company. Nevertheless, the organizers of the protest measures were threatened with dismissal.

Terminations after corona protest

As part of the coronavirus pandemic, there was again internal turbulence. A number of employees in various logistics centers reported problematic working conditions. They felt they were not adequately protected from infection and also complained about a lack of information.

Amazon responded by firing one of the employees involved in this matter. Notes leaked from a meeting of executives in which they apparently gave little importance to the concerns and focused on their own representation in public.

Those affected turned to the AECJ organizers, who then helped raise awareness of a petition internally and connected the protesters with activist Naomi Klein. After the announcement of the video call with the guest speaker, the two leaders behind AECJ were dismissed immediately, although the management would have had many other options. Bray calls the reasons for the terminations that Amazon delivered "laughable". "It was clear to every observer that they had been kicked out for whistleblowing," he writes.

No room for complaint

For him, this broke the barrel. Instead of venting his anger publicly, he escalated his complaints "according to the rules through the channels provided". However, these fell on deaf ears. Since, as a leading manager, he would have had to support decisions that he profoundly reject, he has now drawn the consequences with his resignation.

Even with further criticism, he does not hold back. He names a number of employees who were thrown out of the door for their involvement in protests. "I'm sure it's just a coincidence that all of them don't-know, are women, or both - aren't they?" He notes cynically. He also refers to numerous media reports on working conditions in various logistics centers of the group.

Criticism of capitalism

He believes that the company is now prioritizing the protection of employees against the corona virus and is investing heavily in appropriate security measures. Nevertheless, the group regards its logistics employees more as transport and packaging units than as people. The company is extremely well managed when it comes to finding and exploiting economic opportunities. But with it comes a lack of understanding of the human cost of business growth and the problems that the accumulation of power and wealth brings with it.

In his view, this is not a problem for Amazon alone, but for capitalism in the 21st century in general. To solve it, you don't have to reinvent the wheel, you need strong antitrust authorities, laws to strengthen workers and wages that ensure survival. He cites France as a model for this.

Toxic corporate culture

Bray believes that Amazon's whistleblower termination is not a consequence of modern capitalism. Rather, it is a sign of a toxic corporate culture that he no longer wants to belong to. There are also departments at the retail giant where things work differently. In the cloud department, employees would be heard and treated humanely. Observing the work-life balance has high priority.

But that too has to do with power and influence. The salaries of AWS developers are high, and those who are dissatisfied can simply hire another company in the area for the same or a better salary - while the bargaining position of warehouse employees is getting weaker and weaker, especially during the pandemic and the accompanying skyrocketing unemployment figures . (red, 5.5.2020)