Amazon workers walk out amid layoffs citing climate concerns

Hundreds of Amazon employees walked off the job Wednesday afternoon, demanding a flexible remote work policy and renewed commitments to reduce carbon emissions to zero.

The walkout is a collaboration between Amazon Workers for Climate Justice and a group of informal workers protesting Amazon’s forced return to the office. The recent employee layoffs and the mandate — which increases emissions when workers travel — have Amazon executives questioning whether they are steering the company in the right direction.

Amazon employees plan to walk off the job as tensions rise among tech workers

“It’s definitely about how low morale is,” said one Seattle-based Amazon employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. “There’s a lot of distrust in leadership right now.”

Walkout organizers estimated that about 1,000 workers participated in the walkout in Seattle, and more than 2,000 workers worldwide have pledged to participate.

Amazon has a corporate workforce of more than 350,000 people, 65,000 of whom are near Seattle, and an estimated 300 workers participated in Wednesday’s event.

Amazon spokesman Brad Glaser said the company is working toward a goal of “net carbon zero by 2040.”

“While we all want to get there tomorrow, energy-intensive companies like ours have significant transportation, packaging and physical construction assets that will take time to accomplish,” he said. “We are on track to have 100 percent renewable energy by 2025 and will continue to make significant investments, innovate and collaborate internally and externally to achieve our goal.”

Amazon founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.

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In 2019, the group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice organized a similar action, demanding that Amazon release its carbon emissions data. Shortly thereafter, Amazon publicly committed to renewable energy and net-zero carbon emissions goals known as the Climate Pledge.

Amazon, Google and other tech workers are protesting in support of climate action

But now, some Amazon employees seem to be distancing the company from those duties. Last week, the company quietly removed language from its website that promised to get half of its exports to net zero carbon emissions by 2030, Reveal first reported. The news, which followed the announcement of the walkout plans, sparked enthusiasm among employees for participation.

Participants sent Slack messages and emails to encourage colleagues to sign up for the walkout.

“Amazon is actively accelerating this crisis on our watch, through our work, and each of us has the opportunity and responsibility to do something about it,” read an email from employees.

“We want to have another Amazon,” read another employee email. “Not just slowly transitioning gas vans to their EV versions, but one that really centers business decisions around sustainability. Very soon, it will seem very foolish to build our operations relying on Prime Air’s air cargo system without a carbon-zero version.”

Amazon has said The company scrapped the Zero Shipments goal because it was trumped by a climate pledge that refers to Amazon’s entire business rather than shipping specifically.

But the Seattle-based employee said his colleagues were using whiteboards inside the company’s elevators to express their frustration about Amazon’s decision not to inform employees of the zero-shipment goal. He said he worries the change will mean the company won’t meet its 2040 target.

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“I’ve been in a lot of these meetings where sustainability is brought up, and I know that’s never a real priority. It’s always about profit over sustainability,” the employee said.

Many of the workers who participated in the walkout were frustrated after Amazon rejected a petition written by employees asking them to withdraw their return-to-office order.

“I can’t believe that in this day and age, a company that claims to be an innovative leader in its place would do that to one of its most valuable resources, its employees,” said Pamela, a walkout organizer at Wednesday’s walkout rally.

Pamela previously started a Slack channel to discuss back-to-office issues with more than 33,000 members, which she called “the largest expression of employee discontent in the company’s history.”

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