Corporate Amazon workers walk out over climate goals and return to office

by Francis Ogoti
3 minutes read

Amazon Employees Protest Layoffs and Job Cuts, with 27,000 Positions Eliminated since November 2022

Hundreds of Amazon corporate employees staged a lunchtime demonstration at the company’s Seattle headquarters, protesting what they viewed as a lack of progress on climate goals and an unfair return-to-office policy. The protest occurred a week after Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting and one month after implementing a new policy that requires employees to work in the office for three days a week.

The employees expressed their dissatisfaction with the company’s slow efforts to reduce its carbon footprint, chanting phrases like “Emissions climbing, time to act.” They also called for Amazon to give more decision-making authority to team leaders regarding work locations. The employees further raised objections to recent layoffs, as the company has eliminated 27,000 jobs since November.

One employee, Church Hindley, shared his personal experience of improved well-being while working from home due to managing depression and anxiety. Amazon released a statement affirming its support for workers’ rights to express their opinions. According to the advocacy group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, over 1,900 employees worldwide, including approximately 900 in Seattle, pledged to participate in the walkout.

According to the climate change advocacy group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, over 1,900 employees worldwide, with approximately 900 in Seattle, have pledged to participate in the walkout as of Wednesday morning. While many employees are joining remotely, hundreds gathered at the Amazon Spheres, a unique four-story structure in downtown Seattle consisting of interconnected glass orbs. Amazon, which heavily relies on fossil fuels to power its shipping operations worldwide, has faced criticism from its workers regarding the company’s practices and environmental impact. In its annual statement to investors, Amazon stated its goal of deploying 100,000 electric delivery vehicles by 2030 and achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.

However, organizers of the walkout argue that the company should commit to zero emissions by 2030. Amazon spokesperson Brad Glasser acknowledged the challenges of achieving such goals, citing the company’s substantial power consumption, transportation needs, packaging, and physical infrastructure. Glasser mentioned the positive atmosphere observed on the company’s campuses since more employees returned to the office, although over 20,000 workers signed a petition urging a reconsideration of the return-to-office policy. In a memo, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy explained that the decision to bring employees back to the office was influenced by observations of staff performance during the pandemic and conversations with leaders at other companies, concluding that in-person engagement fosters better collaboration.

Organizers of the walkout emphasized the need for Amazon to grant autonomy to its teams to determine the best work arrangements, whether remote, in-person, or hybrid, to accommodate individual preferences and optimize productivity. The walkout follows a series of cost-cutting measures at Amazon, resulting in layoffs affecting various departments and divisions, including advertising, human resources, gaming, stores, devices, and Amazon Web Services.

Since November, the company has cut 27,000 jobs. Like other tech companies, Amazon experienced significant growth in its workforce during the pandemic to meet the rising demand for online shopping. However, as the pandemic situation improved, demand slowed, leading Amazon to pause or cancel warehouse expansion plans. Additionally, the company shut down a subsidiary that sold fabrics for nearly three decades, closed its hybrid virtual in-home care service called Amazon Care, and terminated its philanthropic program known as Amazon Smile, amid concerns about a potential economic downturn.

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