Workers say Amazon threatened to fire employees who criticized its environmental policies; now, they’re planning to speak out en masse.
Hundreds of Amazon employees are going to risk losing their jobs in an unprecedented, coordinated effort this week: They plan to openly criticize the e-commerce giant’s business practices, Recode has learned. The move is a direct challenge to Amazon’s recent reported threat to fire climate change activists within the company who allegedly violated a corporate rule that prohibits employees from speaking publicly about the company without prior approval.
“Is it fair to silence Amazon employees who speak up?” says the subject line of an email employee organizers sent to thousands of colleagues on several major company listservs and messaging platforms last week. The note, obtained by Recode, asks employees to either write their own comments or to sign prewritten statements about the company that either condemn or approve of Amazon’s practices, including those related to sustainability, immigration, and warehouse working conditions. Once organizers gather at least 100 such comments, they plan to post them publicly on Medium, according to the email.
Under Amazon’s external communications policy, employees could be punished for publicly speaking about the company without prior authorization. And that’s part of the plan: The organizers believe that if hundreds of employees band together, there will be “strength in numbers,” and the company won’t punish dissenters as easily.
According to reporting by the Washington Post, over 330 employees plan to participate. Organizers did not respond to a request for comment from Recode.
“Let’s all speak up publicly and violate this policy together, making it unenforceable. Quotes about Amazon’s business can be critical or complimentary, because either way violates the policy,” the email says. “Of course, do NOT share confidential information.”
The employees plan to brazenly disobey what they view as a muzzling corporate rule that forces employees to give up “their basic humanity and integrity in order to be employees,” according to the email. It’s the latest sign of rank-and-file employees at tech companies, including Google and Microsoft, organizing collectively for greater influence on major company decisions. And it demonstrates how even Amazon — historically considered hierarchical and heads-down — has become politicized over the increasingly high-stakes social impact of global tech companies’ day-to-day business affairs.