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Amazon VP quits, citing treatment of warehouse workers who raised COVID-19 concerns

May 4, 2020
By Talent Canada Staff

(Getty Images)

A Vancouver-based executive at Amazon has quit the online retailer in protest, citing the way employees who complained about COVID-19 were treated.

Tim Bray, who identified himself as a “VP and distinguished engineer” at Amazon in a blog post, said he worked for the company — a job he described as “rewarding fun” — for nearly five-and-half years.

“I quit in dismay at Amazon firing whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of Covid-19,” he wrote. “What with big-tech salaries and share vestings, this will probably cost me over a million (pre-tax) dollars, not to mention the best job I’ve ever had, working with awfully good people. So I’m pretty blue.”

While he acknowledged that “VPs shouldn’t go publicly rogue,” he said he escalated his complaints by the book and through all the proper channels.


“That done, remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised. So I resigned,” he wrote.

He went on to name names of the people who were fired. “I’m sure it’s a coincidence that every one of them is a person of colour, a woman, or both. Right?”

One of Bray’s biggest beefs was not necessarily the specifics of Amazon’s COVID-19 response, but that the company “treats the humans in the warehouse as fungible units of pick-and-pack potential. Only that’s not just Amazon, it’s how 21st-century capitalism is done.”

“If we don’t like certain things Amazon is doing, we need to put legal guardrails in place to stop those things,” he wrote. “We don’t need to invent anything new; a combination of antitrust and living-wage and worker-empowerment legislation, rigorously enforced, offers a clear path forward.”

Among other adjectives, he used following phrases to describe the firing of the activist employees:

  • “Chickenshit.”
  • “Kill the messenger.”
  • “Designed to create a climate of fear.”

As for Bray, he said he doesn’t know what his next steps will be.

“I’m sad, but I’m breathing more freely.”

Read his full essay here.

Amazon responded in an email to The Canadian Press that it supports employees’ rights to criticize working conditions, but that the two employees were fired for “repeatedly violating internal policies.”

“We support every employee’s right to criticize their employer’s working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against any and all internal policies,” the email stated.

The email said Amazon did not have any further comment on Bray’s departure, and would not answer a followup question about what internal policies the two terminated employees had violated.

— with files from the Canadian Press

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