Hundreds of Amazon employees walk out over company's carbon footprint, in-person work policy
Nearly 2,000 Amazon employees pledged to join a one-hour walkout Wednesday to protest the company’s environmental impact and workplace policies.
The employee activists hope to pressure Amazon to rethink its new return to office (RTO) policy, which requires corporate workers to go into the office three days per week. Demonstrators also hope to draw attention to Amazon’s carbon footprint, which is growing despite the company’s Climate Pledge.
Organizers of the walkout estimate about 900 Seattle employees participated. Amazon says its count was closer to 300. Current and former Amazon employees and climate change activists spoke during the hour-long event.
"We want to see Amazon commit to being a progressive employer that supports all employees, working parents, colleagues with disabilities, and colleagues of color who prefer to do their best work remotely," said Emily Cunningham, a former employee who says she was fired for speaking out about Amazon's environmental impact. Though the National Labor Relations Board sided with Cunningham, Amazon says she was not fired for her activism.
Amazon implemented its return-to-office policy in May. In response, more than 30,000 employees joined a Slack channel protesting the mandate. Still, Amazon says opponents to the change are a vocal minority.
“We've had a great few weeks with more employees in the office,” said Amazon spokesperson Rob Munoz in a statement. “There's been good energy on campus and in urban cores like Seattle where we have a large presence. We've heard this from lots of employees and the businesses that surround our offices.”
In response to the other concerns raised by the activists, Munoz said, “We've explained our thinking in different forums over the past few months and will continue to do so.”
The walkout was organized by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ), a group that has been advocating for environmental reform at the company for years. That group was joined by the newer Remote Advocacy group that sprung up at Amazon in response to the return-to-office policy.
"Today looks like it might be the start of a new chapter in Amazon's history, when tech workers coming out of the pandemic stood up and said, we still want a say, in this company, and the direction of this company," said Eliza Pan, a former Amazon employee and member of Climate Justice group. "We still want to say in important decisions that affect all of our lives."
Central to the Climate Pledge is a commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2040 through a combination of carbon reduction and offsetting. Employee activists want Amazon to commit to zero carbon emissions by 2030, rather than offsetting some of its emissions and working on a longer timeline.
"With the climate crisis, winning slowly is the same thing as losing," Cunningham said. "Luckily, and we all know this. Amazon knows how to move quickly."