Not long ago, Amazon made Tim Bray the face of its Amazon Web Services and a rising star within its VP ranks. Today, Bray takes aim at the global retailer in a resignation announcement in solidarity with warehouse “whistleblowers” who lost their jobs by complaining about working conditions in the COVID-19 pandemic. The move will cost Bray a million dollars, he claims, but says Amazon has become “toxic” as it imposes “a climate of fear”:
Tim Bray, a well known senior engineer and Vice President at Amazon has “quit in dismay” because Amazon has been “firing whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of Covid-19.” In an open letter on his website, Bray, who has worked at the company for nearly six years, called the company “chickenshit” for firing and disparaging employees who have organized protests. He also said the firings are “designed to create a climate of fear.”
Amazon’s strategy throughout the coronavirus crisis has been to fire dissenters and disparage them both in the press and behind closed doors. There have been dozens of confirmed coronavirus cases at warehouses around the country, and workers have repeatedly said the company isn’t doing enough to protect them. Last week, Amazon ended a program that allowed workers to take unlimited unpaid time off if they fear getting sick from the coronavirus. Last Friday, Amazon workers together with Target, FedEx, Instacart, and Whole Foods workers, went on strike to protest their working conditions.
In statements to Motherboard, Amazon has said its own protesting workers are “spreading misinformation and making false claims about Amazon,” and that it “objects to the irresponsible actions of labor groups.” Last month, Amazon fired Chris Smalls, an Amazon worker in New York City. In a meeting, Amazon executives said that they believe Smalls is not “smart or articulate,” and that publicly they would focus on “laying out the case for why the organizer’s conduct was immoral, unacceptable, and arguably illegal,” according to leaked notes from that meeting obtained by VICE News.
We covered the Smalls protests at some length a few weeks ago. Even if Smalls intended them as a legit workplace-conditions protest, though, he undermined his own status as a whistleblower by twice breaking quarantine himself to conduct public protests. The effort seemed much more intended to force union organizing than public health, and to take advantage of the crisis to boost the former.