It's impossible to know what goes on behind closed doors at any of the corporations we know and love. Recently, accounts from a former Vancouver Amazon vice president alleged the large corporation was firing people who were worried about COVID-19 and expressed concerns. In an open letter to the public, the former Vancouver executive recounts what had been happening and what ultimately led to him quitting on May 1, 2020.
Amazon is an essential business that has stayed open during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several of the large retailer's employees have been coming out saying they have tested positive for COVID-19. This includes one in Alberta and another in Ottawa.
Employees in Ottawa allegedly found out that a coworker tested positive for COVID-19 via text message.
Apparently, staff working for the massive corporation expressed their concerns about COVID-19 and how they believed they were in unsafe working conditions. The response to some staff's complaints was allegedly termination.
In response to the actions taken by Amazon, a former Vancouver-based vice president of the shipping company has quit and penned an open letter to the public about what happened.
The online post written by Tim Bray reads that Friday, May 1, was his last day as a VP and Distinguished Engineer at Amazon after working there for a little over five years.
“I quit in dismay at Amazon firing whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of COVID-19,” wrote Bray.
According to his own account, “stories surfaced of unrest in Amazon warehouse” amid the pandemic.
Workers were claiming to be misinformed, unprotected, and afraid.
Bray said that an official statement by the company claimed that every possible precaution was being taken to ensure safety.
During the same time, a worker who was rallying for better safety conditions was fired.
In executive meeting notes, Bray stated that “brutally insensitive remarks” were made, though he doesn't clarify if the remarks were made about the fired employee or the organization for better working conditions.
Warehouse workers then reached out to the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AEJC).
This group is a band of employees from the tech side of Amazon that initially began calling for action from the company to address the global climate emergency one year ago.
AECJ then responded by internally promoting a petition and organizing a video call for Thursday, April 16, that would include warehouse workers from around the world and guest activist Naomi Klein.
Bray said that Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, two leaders of AECJ, were fired on the day of the video call.
“The justifications were laughable; it was clear to any reasonable observer that they were turfed for whistleblowing,” wrote the former executive in his open letter.
“Management could have objected to the event, or demanded that outsiders be excluded, or that leadership be represented, or any number of other things; there was plenty of time. Instead, they just fired the activists.”
This was a pivotal point for Bray. He explained that he then went through the “proper channels” and “by the book” to address his concerns with fellow coworkers.
“That done, remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised. So I resigned,” read the statement.
He then listed off the names of some of the people that were fired followed by “I’m sure it’s a coincidence that every one of them is a person of color, a woman, or both. Right?”
Near the end of the letter, the former executive does admit that Amazon claims it is now prioritizing this issue and putting in efforts to ensure warehouse safety.
“And at the end of the day, the big problem isn’t the specifics of Covid-19 response. It’s that Amazon treats the humans in the warehouses as fungible units of pick-and-pack potential,” wrote Bray.
In an update post on the Amazon website on Wednesday, May 5, it reads that the companies top concern “is ensuring the health and safety of our employees."
In addition to this, Amazon noted they have made 150 process updates, such as enhanced cleaning and social distancing.
Protective gear, including masks, has apparently been implemented and distributed to employees.
The large corporation wrote in the same update that people working for Amazon who are diagnosed with COVID-19 will receive two weeks of paid time off.
In am email to Narcity, Amazon stated that they "don’t have a comment to provide at this time."