An Amazon VP has resigned in protest over how the company fired several employees for calling out the lack of COVID-19 protections at Amazon warehouses.
“I quit in dismay at Amazon firing whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of COVID-19,” wrote Tim Bray, who worked as a senior principal engineer at the company’s cloud services group.
The resignation occurs as a growing number of workers at Amazon warehouses have been contracting the virus, sparking employee-led protests. In a blog post on Monday, Wray wrote that he “snapped” after Amazon fired two employees, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, for trying to organize a petition and video call last month to call attention to the problems.
“The justifications (for the firings) were laughable; it was clear to any reasonable observer that they were turfed for whistleblowing,” Bray wrote. He voiced his complaints through Amazon’s internal channels, but Bray eventually decided he had no choice but to quit, claiming the dismissals were emblematic of the company’s toxic culture.
“That done, remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised. So I resigned,” he said. In same blog post, Bray also called out the e-commerce giant for firing former warehouse workers Chris Smalls and Bashir Mohamed for trying to organize protests demanding the company institute better workplace protections.
Amazon declined to comment on Bray’s resignation. But the company recently vowed to spend $4 billion on protective equipment for warehouse employees while also raising their wages. Last month, the e-commerce giant also began distributing masks and instituting temperature checks before workers can enter the premises.
Still, Amazon workers say the company needs to be transparent about the COVID-19 cases occurring at each warehouse. They’ve also asked Amazon to provide paid sick leave during the pandemic—no COVID-19 test required—and to temporarily shut down and sanitize warehouses where positive cases have been reported.
According to Bray, it’s clear that Amazon is trying to shore up the COVID-19 protections. “But I believe the worker testimony too,” he wrote in his blog post. “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. Only that’s not just Amazon, it’s how 21st-century capitalism is done.”