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Amazon workers walk out to protest return-to-work policy, climate change

Return-to-work policies and a frustration with the company’s climate change commitments prompted some Amazon employees to walk off the job Wednesday.

Several hundred tech and administrative workers at Amazon’s main headquarters in Seattle staged a walkout today, urging the technology and retail giant to adopt more climate-friendly policies and do away with rules mandating in-office work.

Several speakers at an event — which was broadcast on Twitter — spoke outside the company’s headquarters Wednesday morning, saying that climate change wasn’t being taken sufficiently seriously by Amazon, and arguing for a range of policies that would reduce the company’s impact on the environment. The event was organized in part by a group called Amazon Employees for Climate Justice.

Representatives from other groups — including Minneapolis labor advocacy group the Awood Center, which helped Amazon warehouse workers in that city organize for better working conditions — sent statements of support, and speakers included the director of local climate justice action group 350 Seattle, Shemona Moreno.

“Keep pushing Amazon to become part of the green new deal,” urged Moreno.

“You can change Amazon if you organize,” said Awood Center executive director Abdirahman Muse, in a statement read by one of the Seattle speakers.

Part of the reason for the walkout, according to a statement issued by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ), is the company’s recent admission that it had dropped its commitment to its “Shipment Zero” policy, which pledged in 2019 to reduce carbon emissions to net zero on 50% of its shipments by 2030.

“I’m appalled that senior leadership quietly abandoned one of the key goals in the climate pledge,” said one unnamed worker in the statement. “It’s yet another sign that leadership still doesn’t put climate impact at the center of their decision-making. That’s why I walked out.”

The group also accused Amazon of backtracking on other commitments to reducing its environmental impact, including undercounting its carbon footprint, disproportionately locating pollution-heavy operations in communities of color, and working to undercut clean energy legislation.

Amazon spokesperson Brad Glasser urged patience, and highlighted that many items in the company’s climate pledge would take time to realize.

“While we all would like to get there tomorrow, for companies like ours who consume a lot of power, and have very substantial transportation, packaging, and physical building assets, it’ll take time to accomplish,” Glasser said.

Pushing back on return to office

The walkout was also organized to protest mandatory return-to-office policies implemented by the company. The AECJ statement called the return-to-office policy a “fumbled rollout” and said that it threatened the company’s long-term success.

“If we want to attract the best people from all over the world, senior leadership has to change with the times,” said one worker quoted in the statement. “I don’t trust senior leadership’s decision-making anymore and I know I’m not alone.”

Glasser’s statement said that Amazon was “happy” with how the first month of the new policy has gone.

“There’s more energy, collaboration, and connections happening, and we’ve heard this from lots of employees and the businesses that surround our offices,” said Glasser. “We understand that it’s going to take time to adjust back to being in the office more and there are a lot of teams at the company working hard to make this transition as smooth as possible for employees.”