‘We respect our employees’ rights to express their opinions’ – GeekWire

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Kurt Schlosser
2023-05-22 19:59:36

Foot traffic around Amazon’s headquarters campus in Seattle in early May after the company mandated that employees return to the office at least three days a week. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Amazon responded to reports Monday that some employees at the company’s corporate headquarters in Seattle plan to walk off the job to protest recent actions at the company, including layoffs and a return-to-office mandate.

“We respect our employees’ rights to express their opinions,” a company spokesperson said in a statement to GeekWire.

The Washington Post first reported on the walkout planned for May 31.

Organizers are hoping at least 1,000 Amazon employees will walk off the job between noon and 1 p.m. next Monday, a week after Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting.

Two groups are organizing the protest, according to a statement posted online.

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice has previously criticized the company’s efforts toward reducing its carbon footprint and organized a “virtual walkout” over firings and warehouse conditions in 2020.

A group called Amazon Remote Advocacy is also involved, and wants the tech giant to embrace remote and flexible work.

“Amazon’s top-down, one-size-fits-all RTO mandate undermines the diverse, accessible future that we want to be a part of,” the statement says. “Amazon must return autonomy to its teams, who know their employees and customers best, to make the best decision on remote, in-person, or hybrid work, and to its employees to choose a team which enables them to work the way they work best.”

Amazon employees on the plaza near The Spheres between two of the company’s headquarters towers earlier this month. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

The groups said the walkout will only happen if 1,000 employees pledge to do it, and that walkouts by employees outside of Seattle are welcome as a show of power.

Thousands of corporate and tech employees previously joined an internal Slack channel to protest Amazon’s return to office policy. That mandate went into effect May 1, with employees required to be back in offices at least three days per week.

The move by CEO Andy Jassy and company leadership came after Amazon previously said in October 2021 that it was leaving back-to-office decisions up to individual team leaders. Amazon altered course when it announced the return-to-office plans in February of this year.

In a post on LinkedIn citing The Washington Post story, a former AWS employee who left the company last month cited “the lack of communication and constant misdirection” at Amazon.

Sean Blakey, a longtime Amazon engineer, said in a tweet that the rhetoric related to the walkout has a different feel from years past.

The planned walkout comes on the heels of significant job cuts at Amazon, where 27,000 employees have been laid off over the past few months. Amazon in January announced an 18,000-person layoff, the largest in the company’s history. An additional 9,000 layoffs were announced in March.

“We’re really walking out to show leadership is taking us in the wrong direction and employees need a say in the decisions that affect our lives,” a software engineer who wished to remain anonymous told The Seattle Times.

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