Tim Bray , a Canadian software developer, was for more than five years – and until a few days ago – one of Amazon’s vice presidents. However, as he explained himself in an open letter published on his personal page , he has decided to leave the company due to its “toxicity” and due to the dismissals that the company has made among workers who have denounced the conditions in its warehouses or have criticized its impact on the environment .
“May 1 was my last day as vice president and engineer for Amazon Web Services after five years and five months of rewarding entertainment,” Bray begins in his post. Then the first blow against the firm, straight to the jaw and without subtlety: he resigned “with consternation” because Amazon fired those who “complain because warehouse employees are afraid of Covid-19.”
This move, he acknowledges, will cost him close to a million dollars and his best work. But he also explains that he had no other option with a detailed chronology that begins with some protests and ends with the aforementioned decision.
A year ago, several Amazon workers created an organization called Amazon Employees for Climate Justice ( AECJ ) and asked, in an open letter to management and shareholders, that the company take action on “the global climate emergency.” It was signed by 8,702 people, Bray included. The resolution they requested was not approved.
Months later, as thousands of employees participated in pro-climate strikes, the company announced a plan to be greener, but, in the opinion of the former vice president, Amazon ignored the previous efforts of its employees and even threatened those who led it. internal revolution with layoffs.
In this context came the coronavirus crisis. In the warehouses, the workers complained of being uninformed, little protected and scared (there have been dozens of cases and a strike was organized for this reason). The official position, Bray explains, was that security measures were in place. But then one of these employees who had raised their complaints was fired. The stores contacted the AECJ, a virtual meeting was organized and on the same day that it was held, two of the leaders of the collective also ended up on the street.
“The justifications were laughable; it was obvious to any sensible observer that they were cast as ‘snitches’,” he laments. And he throws another hook: “I’m sure it’s a coincidence that they are all a racialized person, a woman, or both , right?” For the Canadian, that was the moment when everything fell apart.
Although at the time, given his managerial position, he used “the right channels” to raise his complaints and concerns, there does not appear to be any change in this regard. “After taking these measures, having continued as vice president of Amazon would have meant, in practice, giving the go-ahead to actions that he detested,” he sums up. “So I resigned.”
Still, Bray trusts the company, whose message is that it is prioritizing and efforts are being made to improve security in its warehouses. This is something that, in your opinion (based also on what people you trust have told you) is true. “The big problem is not the specific response to Covid-19,” he says in the letter, it is that Amazon “treats humans in warehouses as interchangeable units.” And not just the company: “it ‘s how 21st century capitalism works .”
The company, Bray continues, “has exceptional leadership and has shown great talent for finding opportunities and building repeatable processes to exploit them.” “He also has a corresponding lack of vision regarding the human cost of relentless growth and the accumulation of wealth and power.” The path, he believes, must follow a path of antitrust legislation and labor rights.