Vice President (VP) of Amazon Tim Bray, has resigned in anger over the company’s treatment of employees who have protested against working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic.
“May 1st was my last day as a VP and Distinguished Engineer at Amazon Web Services, after five years and five months of rewarding fun,” Bray wrote on his website.
“I quit in dismay at Amazon firing whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of Covid-19.
“What with big-tech salaries and share vestings, this will probably cost me over a million (pre-tax) dollars. Not to mention the best job I’ve ever had, working with awfully good people. So I’m pretty blue.”
He also said that “remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised. So I resigned.”
While business soars, workers suffer
Lockdown regulations have closed down many businesses and shops. This has created an opening for Amazon to fill in the gap by delivering directly to consumers’ homes.
As many as 100,000 new workers were reportedly hired.
Meanwhile company founder Jeff Bezos’ net worth has increased by an estimated $6.4 Billion while Amazon’s stocks have climbed rapidly over the past couple of months.
Yet in the midst of this boom, numerous Amazon employees worldwide have tested positive for the coronavirus. And there have been many reports of disgruntled workers who feel not enough is being done to protect their health.
Amazon take a hard line approach
Despite these concerns, Amazon has taken a hard line and dissenters have been fired.
In a statement to Motherboard, Amazon claimed that protesting workers are “spreading misinformation and making false claims about Amazon,” and that it “objects to the irresponsible actions of labor groups.”
Last week the company ended a program which had enabled workers to claim unlimited unpaid time off if they thought they may have contracted the coronavirus.
Last year Bray was the highest-ranking employee to sign a letter calling for climate action at Amazon.
Now in the wake of company’s mistreatment of workers, he decided that he could no longer be part of Amazon.
“Firing whistleblowers isn’t just a side-effect of macroeconomic forces, nor is it intrinsic to the function of free markets,” read part of his statement. “It’s evidence of a vein of toxicity running through the company culture. I choose neither to serve nor drink that poison.”
Bray suggested that there may have been racial undertones to some of the dismissals.
“The victims weren’t abstract entities but real people; here are some of their names: Courtney Bowden, Gerald Bryson, Maren Costa, Emily Cunningham, Bashir Mohammed, and Chris Smalls. I’m sure it’s a coincidence that every one of them is a person of color, a woman, or both. Right?”
He also perceived there to be a massive difference in the way Amazon treated its white-collar workers, compared to the frontline employees in the warehouses, who he says were treated as “fungible units of pick-and-pack potential.”
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