Amazon employees say they won’t stop pushing the company on climate change, despite fears of being fired (AMZN)
- Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, the Amazon employee group that has publicly pushed the company to adopt aggressive climate change say they won’t stop, despite fears of being fired.
- The group issued a press release on Thursday saying a few of them were contacted by HR and legal last fall after two of them were named in a news article publicly criticising the company.
- “Amazon’s policy is not going to stop the momentum tech workers have built over the past year at Amazon,” said Amazon data engineer Justin Campbell in a press release from the group.
- Amazon said it has been supportive of climate change policies, promising to adopt the proposals of the Paris Accord a decade ahead of deadline.
- But the employees have been calling on Amazon to do more, including to stop supporting oil and gas companies on its Amazon Web Services cloud.
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The Amazon employees who have been publicly and vocally calling on the company to agree to their list of climate-related policies say they aren’t giving up, despite what they say are the company’s attempts to subdue them.
The group, which calls itself Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, issued a press release on Thursday and took to Twitter, shortly after a Washington Post report that human resources at Amazon had emailed warnings to two leaders in the group. The Washington Post is owned by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.
The two employees in question were named in a Washington Post story in October after two members of the group criticized Amazon’s cloud computing business for offering services that aid oil and gas companies in the process of extraction.
People associated with this group have been making these same criticisms over Amazon Web Services and its work with oil and gas companies for the better part of a year, since the group published an open letter in April 2019. That letter also included a list of other demands. The group has since pubished other letters, organized demonstrations, and made public statements and communicated with the press.
Amazon changes its policies
However, in September, Amazon changed its communications policy to require employees to get prior company approval to speak about Amazon in any public forum, including social media.
This policy came one day after the group publicly announced that it would be participating in the Global Climate Walkout on September 20. The walkout day was led by the 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg, and saw millions of people around the world leave their jobs and classrooms to protest the lack of progress curtailing the earth’s climate crises.
Also on September 19, a day before Thunberg’s event, Amazon issued its Climate Pledge, in which the company agreed to be run on 100% renewable energy by 2030 and zero carbon emmissions across its businesses by 2040 — a decade ahead of the Paris Accords, which set a goal of 2050. The employees were demanding the company do that by 2030.
And then, in October 10, Amazon issued a public list of its policies including things like support for increasing the minimum wage, recapped its Climate Pledge and said it will continue to support its energy industry customers to help them move to renewable energy.
Two employees and members of the Climate Justice group immediately shot back, accusing the company of a “false narrative” on its work with the oil industry, the Washington Post reported. They pointed to AWS marketing materials promising to help energy companies companies locate new oil reserves.
This was a risky move on the employees’ parts — not just because of the new communications policy, but because Amazon’s top leadership principle is “customer obsession,” meaning that any criticism of Amazon’s customers would likely be noticed. (The employees have pointed out that another leadership principle at Amazon is to “challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting.”)
In November, the two employees named in the article were contacted by HR and Amazon’s legal department and questioned over violating the communications policy, the group says. Others employees “received follow-up emails threatening termination if they continue to speak out about Amazon’s business,” the group also says.
And now, these employees are saying despite the risk of losing their jobs, they won’t stop pressuring the company.
“Amazon’s policy is not going to stop the momentum tech workers have built over the past year at Amazon,” said Amazon data engineer Justin Campbell in the group’s press release. “The climate crisis is the greatest challenge we face and the only way we can find solutions is by protecting people’s right to speak freely and disrupting the status quo.”
The group did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment.
“Our policy regarding external communications is not new and we believe is similar to other large companies,” an Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider, who also added that the policy was changed “to make it easier for employees to participate in external activities such as speeches, media interviews, and use of the company’s logo” by giving them access to an internal website for such requests, the spokesperson said. The spokesperson also said that if HR learns a company has violated any policy, including this one, they may “receive notification” from the HR team.
Amazon isn’t the only big tech company under scrutiny who is now trying to clamp down on employees who protest.
In November, Google fired four employees, at least two of them well known for their roles in protesting corporate leadership, over alleged violations of Google’s data-security policies.
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