Tim Bray, a senior software engineer at Amazon, has resigned from his position at the company in protest of how the firm has handled dissenting workers.
Before this week, Bray worked as the Vice President of Amazon Web Services. In a scathing blog post, he explained that he had been appalled at Amazon’s decision to fire several workers who had protested the company’s treatment of warehouse staff.
A Long list of Firings
Bray explained that Amazon’s firing of warehouse workers was indicative of the firm’s values, and he couldn’t continue to stand by and be a part of such injustice.
“Remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised. So, I resigned. The victims weren’t abstract entities but real people… I’m sure it’s a coincidence that every one of them is a person of color, a woman, or both,” the post continues. “Right?”
He went on to list the victims’ names – Courtney Bowden, Gerald Bryson, Maren Costa, Emily Cunningham, Bashir Mohammed, and Chris Smalls.
Cunningham and Costa worked as user experience designers at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle. The company fired them both early last month after they had criticized the safety and working conditions of its warehouses amid the coronavirus pandemic.
As The Washington Post reported at the time, the two workers had previously criticized Amazon’s environmental policies. It would appear that their dissent was bothering the top honchos, and Amazon decided to let them go.
As for Haynes, the New York Times reported that Amazon asked him not to return to work after he raised awareness about a virtual discussion with warehouse workers. Like Bray, Haynes had quit the company over its treatment of workers. While he was supposed to work until April 17, the firm relieved him of his duties a few days earlier.
A similar fate befell Smalls, who led a protest at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse in March. A day later, the BBC reported that Amazon fired Smalls, citing that he had “violated social distancing guidelines” and “put the safety of others at risk.”
Amazon’s Structural Problem
The firings have now promoted an inquiry by the Office of New York’s Attorney General. In a statement, New York AG Letitia James called the company’s actions disgraceful and asked for the National Labor Relations Board to look into Amazon’s actions amid the pandemic.
Amazon’s conundrum is a bit of a complex one. On the one hand, the company has done quite a lot for people amid the coronavirus pandemic. Apart from remaining perhaps the most crucial customer-facing company in the United States today, the firm has now hired 175,000 additional staff and improved hourly pay by $2.
Still, workers have continued to complain that its efforts haven’t been enough. As Bray explained, this problem existed long before the coronavirus.
As he highlighted, Amazon’s structure appears to prioritize growth over human costs. This means that the company believes it can continue to treat workers like “fungible units of pick-and-pack potential,” as long as they continue to grow.