Amazon.com is taking some heat after a group of climate-conscious employees reported that the e-commerce giant has threatened to fire some employees for speaking out about the internal affairs of the company, the Washington Post reports.
According to a spokesman for Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, two Amazon employees were threatened with termination and a total of four were informed that they were violating the company’s policies by speaking to the media and revealing information on social media.
According to Maren Costa, a principal user-experience designer at Amazon, and Jamie Kowalski, an Amazon software development engineer, their employer contributes to climate change because its cloud computing business aids in oil and gas exploration. Costa met with the human resources department in October, during which she says she was threatened. “It was scary to be called into a meeting like that, and then to be given a follow-up email saying that if I continued to speak up, I could be fired,” she told the Post. “But I spoke up because I’m terrified by the harm the climate crisis is already causing, and I fear for my children’s future.”
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post.
“It’s our moral responsibility to speak up — regardless of Amazon’s attempt to censor us — especially when climate poses such an unprecedented threat to humanity,” Costa added.
However, Amazon’s policy against employees talking to the media is consistent with other large corporations, Amazon says. Amazon spokeswoman Jaci Anderson said employees are “encouraged to work within their teams,” including by “suggesting improvements to how we operate through those internal channels.”
Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ) has its own Twitter account, and on Friday they retweeted a Vox article titled, “Google and Amazon are now in the oil business,” which highlighted the hypocrisy of companies like Google, Amazon and Microsoft because of their strong public stances on fossil fuels while also working with the fossil-fuel industry.
Their Twitter account has been quite active recently, insisting they have the right to speak out about the company’s business practices.
“AECJ announced our participation in the 9/20 Global #ClimateStrike on Sep 4. On Sep 5, Amazon changed its communications policy stating that employees can no longer publicly identify as Amazon employees and say *anything* related to Amazon’s business without prior PR approval,” their Twitter account stated. “This policy change has nothing to do with sharing confidential company information; this change was made to explicitly forbid employees from speaking out about publicly available information, such as Amazon’s partnerships with fossil fuel companies or the funding of lobbyists & think tanks who publicly deny climate change and/or actively work to suppress climate change legislation.”
THREAD/ Jeff Bezos and Amazon executives are threatening to fire a few members of our group after we spoke up about wanting our company to be a leader in the worldwide effort to avert climate catastrophe.https://t.co/L87gpclEyL
— Amazon Employees For Climate Justice (@AMZNforClimate) January 2, 2020
According to the Washington Post, Amazon’s social media policy “allows workers to post missives as long as they do not disclose confidential business information. Workers also are supposed to note that they are expressing their own opinions, not the company’s.”
Emily Cunningham, a user-experience designer, was informed in October that she’d violated the company’s communications policy after appearing on the BBC and criticizing Amazon:
Me on the BBC. Thousands of us walked out, not hundreds :).
"If Amazon truly wants to be a climate leader, we absolutely can not be in bed with fossil fuel companies. Currently we're selling our AI to Big Oil and Gas to help them extract oil more quickly."#ClimateStrike pic.twitter.com/oGRbZPVIED
— Emily Cunningham (@emahlee) September 22, 2019
“It was a clear attempt to silence me and other workers who have been speaking out about the climate crisis,” Cunningham told the Washington Post. Maren Costa added, “I’ve had colleagues, many of them very senior and tenured, say how disappointed they are — that this isn’t the company they thought they were working for.”
Nothing is forcing them to remain employed at Amazon if they do not approve of their business practices. In fact, if they have such a strong moral disagreement with Amazon, why would they want to work there? There must be plenty of other hippy climate-minded companies out there that need their expertise. Maybe they won’t pay as well, but when you’re talking about saving the planet from destruction (in what… is it twelve years now?) then maybe instead of whining about a communication policy and worrying about your job you should get another job—one that won’t preclude you from speaking out about Amazon in any way.
But maybe, for these employees, the paycheck matters most.