Amazon employees are making themselves heard.
On Sunday, Amazon employees spoke out about the company’s climate policies through a post on Medium organized by the group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice. 357 employees individually shared their views on the company’s climate practices.
Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that in the fall of 2019, Amazon warned at least two employees who spoke up about the company’s environmental practices, that additional comments could result in the termination of their employment, citing the company’s external communications policy.
According to the Washington Post, Amazon updated its communication policy the day after plans to attend the global climate strikes in September of 2019 were emailed among Amazon employees. The updated policy required a “business justification” for external communications, the approval of which could take up to two weeks.
This makes the latest move from Amazon employees especially risky. Despite the risk, some employees see it as their duty to speak up.
In a press release from Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, Sarah Tracy, a software development engineer who was also quoted in the post, said “As Amazon workers, we are responsible for not only the success of the company, but its impact as well. It’s our moral responsibility to speak up, and the changes to the communications policy are censoring us from exercising that responsibility. Now is not the time to silence employees, especially when the climate crisis poses such an unprecedented threat to humanity.”
Paul Johnston, a former Amazon employee, left the company “in large part because of Amazon’s lack of significant climate action,” according to the press release. “When I raised climate change concerns while an employee … I was met with very little support for change, and with the standard PR lines about how seriously Amazon was taking the issue,” Johnston said. “Nothing changed until employees began speaking out.”
Of the 357 quotes in the Medium post, some point to Amazon’s association with fossil fuel companies: While Amazon has released a Climate Pledge, which commits the company to being “net zero carbon” by 2040, the company also continues to work with oil and gas companies.
“The science on climate change is clear,” Amelia Graham-McCann, a senior business analyst at Amazon, said in the post. “It is unconscionable for Amazon to continue helping the oil and gas industry extract fossil fuels while trying to silence employees who speak out.”
Justin Wang, a software development engineer at Amazon, echoed the sentiment, saying: “Every day at Amazon I work with incredible people on great projects, but I am weighed down by the knowledge that Amazon partners with the oil and gas industry despite its Climate Pledge. We must be climate leaders, not delayers.”
The latest action adds to the mounting pressure that Amazon employees have already been putting on the company with respect to taking more drastic climate action: Last April, over 8,7000 Amazon workers signed an open letter to Jeff Bezos, asking for significantly increased climate action from the company. Then, last September, over 900 employees pledged to walk off the job in support of the global climate strikes, making it the first time in Amazon’s 25-year history that employees participated in a strike, according to Wired.
In an emailed statement sent to Mashable, an Amazon spokesperson commented on the recent post: “While all employees are welcome to engage constructively with any of the many teams inside Amazon that work on sustainability and other topics, we do enforce our external communications policy and will not allow employees to publicly disparage or misrepresent the company or the hard work of their colleagues who are developing solutions to these hard problems.”
When asked to clarify the employment status of those who contributed to the Medium post, Amazon said it didn’t have anything to share at this time.