E-commerce giant, Amazon, is facing backlash from its staff after more than 900 employees signed a petition over their employer’s lack of action in tackling climate change. The strike would mark Amazon’s first-ever internal staff strike in its 25-year history, and is set to be staged by workers at its headquarters in Seattle, as well as offices in Europe.
The protest at Amazon is said to be part of a larger global-strike movement, led by 16-year-old climate activist, Greta Thunberg ahead of the official United Nations Climate Action Summit which will take place on the 23rd of September.
Wired.com has interviewed a number of Amazon workers taking part in the strike, one of those, Weston Fribley, a software engineer who says that “it’s incredibly important that we show up and support youth who are organizing this kind of thing, because I think it’s really important to show them, ‘hey, you have allies in tech,’” Fribley said.
“I think it’s totally legitimate to say this is a really harmful industry,” Fribley continued to explain. “It’s accelerating climate change, it pollutes environments and communities in all these different ways, and it’s really dangerous- and we’re not going to do business with it,” he said.
Maren Costa, a principal UX designer who has worked at Amazon for more than 15 years says that she has “a chance here to influence Amazon to become a climate leader, and I think that’s the biggest impact that I personally can bring to the fight.”
Amazon, due to its size, scope and operations is seen as a large contributor to climate change, be it through massive amounts of plastic packaging, and the greenhouse gasses emitted through near world-wide shipping of goods. The company has in the past pledged to use 100 per cent renewable energy to power massive amounts of servers and equipment used for Amazon Web Services, but so far has reportedly only met half of this requirement. Apple and Google, on the other hand, have already swapped to renewable energy for their operations, with Facebook saying it’s not far behind these leaders.
“There’s so many tools and capabilities within Amazon that is can really be a leader in this” - Danilo Quilaton.
Those that have signed the petition have echoed three key demands of their employer, Jeff Bezos. According to Wired, petition signers want Amazon “to stop donating to politicians and lobbying groups that deny the reality of climate change, to stop working with oil and gas companies to optimise fossil fuel extraction, and to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2030.”
Danilo Quilaton, who has been with Amazon for two years as a product designer at Twitch says that “there’s so many tools and capabilities within Amazon that it can really be a leader in this,” he said. “That’s all I want as an employee of Amazon- to work for a company that’s taking climate change seriously and leading the push forward.”
Amazon has responded to its employee’s call to strike without directly addressing the matter. In an email statement reported by Wired, the company says that “playing a significant role in helping to reduce the sources of human-induced climate change is an important commitment for Amazon… we have dedicated sustainability teams who have been working for years on initiatives to reduce our environmental impact,” the statement reads.
Amazon has in the past responded to internal criticism over its environmental policies. Last year, when a smaller group of employees who were given company stock filed a joint shareholder resolution demanding Amazon issue an environmental report, as well as plans to reduce its environmental impact. This resolution gained traction and support from other workers at Amazon, and after a lawyer requested they retract it, they published a public letter to Jeff Bezos and Amazon’s board of directors; more than 8,000 employees signed.
“If Amazon stepped up to be a leader, imagine how many people would follow,” says Maren Costa. “We have one of the most trusted brands in the world. It would mean so much for our customers, the next generation and to our peers.”