Amazon has fired two more workers for being publicly critical of the company’s COVID-19 warehouse policies, The Washington Post reports. Both employees had also criticized Amazon earlier this year for its climate change policies.
Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, user experience designers at the company, were fired on Friday after tweeting their criticisms and offering to match donations to warehouse workers. An Amazon spokesperson said both employees were fired for “repeatedly” contravening company policy.
The novel coronavirus has at this point reportedly spread to at least 74 Amazon warehouses and delivery facilities across the U.S. Employees are understandably upset about their lack of say in how Amazon treats them and protects them from the fallout of the pandemic.
Amazon can't function without its workforce. That’s more apparent now than ever, as the company rushes to hire 75,000 more employees on top of its recent 100,000 hires. And yet, we continue to see a massive disconnect between those in power at Amazon and those working on its frontlines. It’s high time the company allowed its workers to voice their concerns without the threat of losing their jobs.
An ongoing problem — These two firings are just the latest in a string of layoffs related to workers vocally criticizing Amazon’s employee policies.
A few weeks ago, a group of warehouse employees at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse organized a walkout in protest of the company’s inaction in the face of COVID-19. Chris Smalls, one of the main organizers of the protest, was promptly fired. Amazon claimed the firing was due to Smalls’ failure to comply with self-quarantine measures.
Just days later, a leaked memo showed that Amazon execs wanted to make an example of Smalls by firing him. Amazon hoped to publicly smear Smalls and discredit the growing labor movement within the company.
Another employee, Chris Hayes, had planned to leave his post on April 17 in protest at the company’s warehouse policies. He sent an invitation to some of his coworkers on Friday asking them to attend a virtual chat with some of the company’s warehouse workers. Just a few hours later, HR contacted Hayes and told him not to come back to work this week.
Some officials have taken notice of Amazon’s firing spree. New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, said after Smalls’ firing that “it is disgraceful that Amazon would terminate an employee who bravely stood up to protect himself and his colleagues.”
If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck… — An obvious pattern is emerging here: Amazon is firing employees for expressing criticism of the company. Amazon can talk circles around the problem all it wants, citing any and every policy to support their firing decisions, but the underlying reasons are clear.
Amazon does not want to hear criticism from its workforce, nor does it want that criticism made public. The massive corporation is very touchy about its public image; if it’s not “we’re all in this together,” Amazon doesn’t want to hear it. To say anything at all is to risk the guillotine. And with the company employing new social distancing measures, it has a new means of firing staff for other reasons while being able to claim it's those measures they've contravened.
Yes, Amazon has taken some steps to rectify warehouse workers’ complaints, like instituting temperature checks and handing out face masks. But these workers are worried about their health and that of their coworkers — and Amazon’s refusal to listen to these concerns does not reflect well on it at all. For a company that’s struggling to fill hiring slots and keep up with skyrocketing demand for its services, firing more people doesn't seem like the most logical decision.