The company warned two employees that they could be terminated if they continue to speak out publicly about the business.
An Amazon spokesperson said employees are “encouraged to work within their teams” and can suggest “improvements to how we operate through those internal channels.”
A group of Amazon employees say the company has threatened to fire them for speaking out against the company’s environmental policies.
In a statement posted to Twitter on Thursday, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice said that several employees were contacted by legal and HR representatives, who said they were in violation of the company’s external communications policy.
Maren Costa, a user experience experience designer, was one of the employees Amazon threatened to fire. In the statement, Costa said: “This is not the time to shoot the messengers. This is not the time to silence those who are speaking out.”
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
Two employees were told their roles would be terminated if they continued to speak out about Amazon’s business, a spokesperson for the group told Labour Heartlands.
Amazon also threatened to terminate Jamie Kowalski, a software development engineer, according to The Washington Post, which first reported the news on Thursday. Kowalski and Costa said they received letters from one of Amazon’s lawyers after speaking out publicly in October, the Post reported.
Amazon’s threats to Costa and other employees occurred after it announced a “climate pledge” in September. The plan commits Amazon to using 100% renewable energy by 2030, before becoming carbon neutral by 2040. To help achieve this, Amazon has ordered 100,000 fully electric delivery vehicles for its fleet.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, said he was “done being in the middle of the herd” on climate policies at the policy’s unveiling, which took place just a day before 1,500 Amazon employees planned to walk out of work to join a wave of global climate strike rallies inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg.
Amazon’s shift on climate change represented a victory for its employee group, which is called Amazon Employees for Climate Justice. The group had previously pushed, unsuccessfully, a shareholder resolution to set a climate change plan.
A further 8,000 Amazon employees subsequently signed an open letter to Bezos calling for concrete climate goals; to cancel contracts with oil and gas companies; and to stop donations to politicians who deny the reality of the climate crisis.
Amazon employees said the company updated its policy on staff speaking to the press and on social media in early September, a day after the plan to join the climate walkout was announced. The new policy requires staff members to seek permission from Amazon prior to talking in a public forum while identified as an employee.
AMAZON WORKERS UK
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
Cunningham, a user-experience designer, said she was informed in an October meeting with a human resources executive that she had violated the company’s recently updated policy. Cunningham criticized Amazon’s environmental policy at the company’s shareholder meeting in May, and on social media and in news reports she has condemned Amazon’s work with oil and gas companies.
In the statement, the employee group claimed that Amazon changed its policy in September, claiming that the updated policy “requires employees to seek prior approval to speak about Amazon in any public forum while identified as an employee.”
It was a clear attempt to silence me and other workers who have been speaking out about the climate crisis, -Cunningham said.
However, Jaci Anderson, an Amazon spokesperson, said the company’s communications policy isn’t new. In September, Amazon actually tried to make it easier for employees to speak out by adding a form on an internal web site where employees could seek approval; prior to that, they had to get direct approval from a senior vice president. She added that employees are “encouraged to work within their teams” and can suggest “improvements to how we operate through those internal channels.”
Amazon employees have increasingly pressured the company to address its environmental impact. At Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting in May, thousands of employees submitted a proposal asking Bezos to develop a comprehensive climate-change plan and reduce its carbon footprint, though it was ultimately rejected. The proposal was built on an employee letter published in April that accused Amazon of donating to climate-delaying legislators and urged the company to transition away from fossil fuels.