Hundreds of Amazon workers walk out to protest climate change inaction
Hundreds of Amazon employees walked out in protest on Friday over the company’s inaction on climate change.
The protest, which was organized by an internal group called Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, was captured in video clips posted to social media.
It coincided with a greater global movement to fight climate change, The Global Climate Strike, the week-long global event that will bring together young people, labor and humanitarian organizations, environmental groups and company employee collectives. Thousands of strikes are expected to take place in over 130 countries, according to teenaged climate activist Greta Thunberg, who is one of the organizers of the global initiative.
Amazon staffers walked out at approximately 11:30 a.m. PT, according to organizers, and gathered in downtown Seattle outside Amazon’s headquarters. The group amassed in the shadow of The Spheres, the trio of steel-and-glass greenhouses Amazon built for employee use.
Staffers held signs with slogans such as “Break free from fossil fuels” and “Great start, Jeff” — a reference to an announcement CEO Jeff Bezos made on Thursday that Amazon plans to be carbon neutral by 2040.
It followed a February announcement for Shipment Zero, an Amazon effort with a self-described “ambitious goal” of being carbon neutral on 50% of all Amazon shipments by 2030. It also has claimed online shopping and cloud computing emit less carbon than trips to the store and physical on-site data centers.
The group of Amazon employees behind the walkout acknowledged in a press release that Bezos’ recent pledge was a “huge win” for the group but not enough. It tweeted that it wants Amazon to “commit to zero emissions by 2030 and pilot electric vehicles first in communities most impacted by pollution.”
Amazon has repeatedly said climate change is an “important commitment.”
During the walkout in Seattle, speakers from different tech companies took turns at a podium revving up the crowd.
“Climate change is and must be a work-appropriate conversation,” a Google employee and action organizer said. “Climate action is your job. This means living our values, walking into the office every day ready to reassert what you believe in.”
The employee, identified as Sam, said workers need to support one another.
“We are a community united across tech, across countries,” she said. “We are not Google. We are not Amazon or Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, Twitter. We are human beings and we need each other right now.”
The group encouraged Amazon to lead in the effort to reach zero emissions — not resign itself to “sliding in at the last moment.” It noted Amazon’s size as one of the reasons the company needs to take action. Amazon employs around 600,000 people globally.
The group’s stated objective includes the desire for Amazon to stop donating to politicians and lobbyists who deny climate change and to stop awarding contracts to fossil fuel companies.
It’s not the first time Amazon employees have taken a stand over environmental issues. In May, over 7,600 employees signed a letter asking Amazon how it planned to respond to climate change.