- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 2, 2020

A group of Amazon employees accused the online retail giant Thursday of threatening to fire them for speaking out publicly on “the company’s role in the climate crisis.”

In a press release, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice accused the company of “intimidation tactics” for contacting tech workers about violations of Amazon’s external-communications policies, with one designer saying she was threatened with termination for her public comments.

“This is not the time to shoot the messengers. This is not the time to silence those who are speaking out,” said Maren Costa, a user experience designer, in a statement.

In an Oct. 10 article in The Washington Post, she criticized Amazon for seeking to “profit in businesses that are directly contributing to the climate catastrophe.” Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos owns the Post.

An Amazon spokesperson said the company has recently sought to make its public-comment policies more employee-friendly.



“Our policy regarding external communications is not new and we believe is similar to other large companies,” said an Amazon spokesperson in an email. “We recently updated the policy and related approval process to make it easier for employees to participate in external activities such as speeches, media interviews, and use of the company’s logo. As with any company policy, employees may receive a notification from our HR team if we learn of an instance where a policy is not being followed.”

The update “included building an intranet page for approvals rather than gaining approval through email and reducing the number and seniority of approvers required,” but AECJ argued that the revamped policy has served to discourage speech.

Amazon’s newly updated communications policy is having a chilling effect on workers who have the backbone to speak out and challenge Amazon to do better,” said software engineer Victoria Liang in the press release.

 

 

In September, Mr. Bezos unveiled the company’s Climate Pledge, which seeks to meet the goals of the Paris agreement 10 years early.

Amazon’s list of “Our Positions” includes a statement that “[H]uman-induced climate change is real, serious, and action is needed from the public and private sectors,” but the employees’ group has argued that the company needs to more to reduce its carbon footprint.

The group said that 8,700 employees have signed a resolution urging Mr. Bezos and the board of directors to pursue a host of aggressive climate-change policies, including cutting ties with cloud services that work with the oil-and-gas industry.

The day after Mr. Bezos unveiled the company’s Climate Pledge, more than 1,000 workers walked out as part of the Global Climate Strike.

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