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Amazon employees plan walkout over return-to-office policy, and more

caption: A quiet scene outside Amazon's Seattle headquarters.
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A quiet scene outside Amazon's Seattle headquarters.
Monica Nickelsburg / KUOW

Amazon employee activist groups are trying to rally colleagues for a one-hour walkout in protest of various grievances with the company, including its new mandate that employees return to the office three days per week.

The walkout will be held between noon and 1 p.m. on May 31 if organizers can get commitments to participate from at least 1,000 Amazon employees.

RELATED: Seattle employers beckon workers back to the office. Downtown can’t wait

Two groups are organizing the demonstration. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice has been pressuring the company to take a more aggressive approach to reducing its carbon footprint for years. More recently, a group called Amazon Remote Advocacy has sprung up to protest the company’s return-to-office (RTO) policy.

“RTO, layoffs, and a broken Climate Pledge all show leadership is exhibiting Day 2 behavior and taking us in the wrong direction,” the groups say in a statement, giving a nod to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ catchphrase, “it’s always Day 1.”

According the groups' statement:

"The world is changing, and Amazon needs to embrace the new reality of remote and flexible work if it wants to remain an innovative company that attracts and retains world-class talent. Many of us, including women, people of color, and workers with disabilities report that having autonomy in where we work improves not only our relationship with it, but also our ability to be seen and treated as equals. Amazon's top-down, one-size-fits-all RTO mandate undermines the diverse, accessible future that we want to be a part of. Amazon must return autonomy to its teams, who know their employees and customers best, to make the best decision on remote, in-person, or hybrid work, and to its employees to choose a team which enables them to work the way they work best."

Amazon has laid off a total of 27,000 employees in the past year after approximately doubling its headcount during the pandemic. On May 1, the company implemented a new policy requiring employees to go into the office three days per week.

A recent analysis by KIRO Radio suggests workers are largely returning to the downtown HQ, evident through the increased strain on commuter traffic. Dubbing it the "Amazon Effect," traffic reporter Chris Sullivan dug up data indicating traffic speeds have slowed by as much as 38% on some routes into Seattle ever since the company's return-to-office mandate took effect.

While employees appear to be complying with the order, that doesn’t mean they’re happy about it. About 30,000 Amazon workers joined a “Remote Advocacy” Slack channel when the company first announced its RTO plans.

An Amazon spokesperson said, "we respect our employees’ rights to express their opinions," in a statement to KUOW. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice did not respond to questions about the walkout.

If it happens, the walkout will come a week after Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting, where activist investors and employees often raise controversial issues.

A previous version of this story stated that the walkout would happen a week before Amazon's annual shareholder meeting. The correct date of the shareholder meeting is May 24, which is a week before the planned walkout.

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