Amazon staff plan mass walkout over slow climate action

Pictured: Inside one of Amazon's US fulfilment centres. Image: Amazon US

The workers, predominantly based in Amazon’s home state of Washington, have co-signed a letter stating that they will begin their demonstration at 11.30am PST on September 20.

The letter states that the group of staff, known as Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, are joining the protest in a bid to get Amazon’s chief executive Jeff Bezos to commit to making the e-commerce giant a net-zero business by 2030.

Their specific demands include piloting electric vehicles (EVs) for deliveries and staff commutes in communities affected by air pollution; divesting from oil and gas companies; and avoiding carbon offsetting on the path to net-zero.

On the oil and gas front, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice highlighted the fact that Amazon’s cloud computing division Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been heavily involved in fossil fuel lobbying in recent years.

“Amazon employees are deeply concerned about the climate crisis, and we see how it’s impacting our lives,” Amazon product designer Danilo Quilaton said.

“I’ve seen how rising sea levels and increased hurricane activity are eroding coastlines and devastating sea turtle habitats where I’ve grown up and lived all my life [California]. The climate walkout is about showing Amazon that employees want to make climate justice central to our business and show real climate leadership.”

“As a leader, we need to reach net-zero first and not be a company who slides in at the last possible deadline,” Amazon senior technical product manager Roshni Naidu added.

Other businesses with staff or members taking part in the 20 September strike include Ben & Jerry’s, Lush, Patagonia, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) and Business in the Community (BITC). 

Growing disapproval

While the majority of the workers taking part in the walkout hail from Seattle or San Francisco, Amazon employees from across Europe have also pledged their support.

The protest comes after more than 8,200 Amazon employees signed an open letter to Bezos, urging him to publicly publish plans outlining how the business will align with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C trajectory.

Similarly, a group of employees last year teamed up with ISS and Glass Lewis to file a shareholder resolution which would have required Amazon to release a plan detailing how, exactly, it will phase out fossil fuels in order to reach its ongoing aim of using 100% renewable energy. The resolution ultimately did not pass.

Amazon originally set its 100% renewable energy target in 2014, but it did not put a delivery date against it. Earlier this year, Amazon’s senior vice president Dave Clark said the firm can “see now a path” to net-zero electricity and deliveries by 2030.

 The company is also one of the remaining big global firms to not produce carbon reports, although there are now plans to do so before the end of 2019.

Sarah George

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