Coronavirus: Amazon vice-president quits over virus firings

Marco Green
May 6, 2020

Bray cited the recent firings of warehouse workers including Chris Smalls and Bashir Mohammed, as well as tech employees Maren Costa and Emily Cunningham, who have criticized the company's climate policies, among others. Even worse, when employees protested, Amazon responded by firing organizers and whistleblowers and a leaked memo obtained by Vice shows higher-ups' plans to smear and discredit at least one of them.

Tim Bray described the firing of protesters as "evidence of a vein of toxicity running through the company culture".

Bray said in his blog post that his resignation, through salaries and share vestings, will probably cost him more than $1 million.

Workers originally formed Amazon Employees for Climate Justice a year ago, publishing an open letter calling on the logistics giant to publish a plan to reach zero emissions and commit to moving away from fossil fuels.

Amazon said Smalls was sacked after he went to work after contracting coronavirus, in a violation of quarantining rules.

More than a dozen demonstrators, including employees and activists, protested outside the Staten Island warehouse last week.

A worker at the Bloomfield-based Amazon Fulfillment Facility - known as JFK8 - has died of coronavirus (COVID-19).

"The big problem is that Amazon treats the humans in the warehouses as fungible units of pick-and-pack potential", Bray wrote, adding the company "has a corresponding lack of vision about the human costs of the relentless growth and accumulation of wealth and power". "I'm a blogger - I write the story of my life", said Bray.

Tim Bray, a vice-president and engineer at Amazon Web Services (AWS), published a blogpost on Friday 1 May announcing that he has made a decision to quit his job after more than five years working at the company.

Warehouse workers then reached out to the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AEJC).

The email said Amazon did not have any further comment on Bray's departure, and would not answer a followup question about what internal policies the two terminated employees had violated.

Bray admitted working with Amazon was the "best job" he ever had, and said he will likely be losing "over a million (pre-tax) dollars" by leaving his position, but he took issue with the company's firings of employees who complained about safety conditions and fears in warehouses, which continue to operate during the current pandemic. "That done, remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised", Bray said. His last day at Amazon was May 1. But I believe the worker testimony, too.

In April, five US senators - including former Democratic presidential candidates Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand - wrote a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos inquiring about Smalls' firing.

"Firing whistleblowers isn't just a side-effect of macroeconomic forces, nor is it intrinsic to the function of free markets". "I choose neither to serve nor drink that poison", he wrote.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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