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Amazon VP Quits Over the Company’s Shameful Decision to Fire Protest Organizers & Whistleblowers

Amazon workers protest in the streets.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread in the United States and people become even more dependent on delivery services, Amazon has managed to find new ways to treat its employees terribly—something it was already excelling at.

In recent weeks, multiple Amazon fulfillment centers across the country have seen outbreaks of COVID-19 and from a lack of hazard pay to substandard sanitization, workers say the company isn’t doing enough to protect them. Even worse, when employees protested, Amazon responded by firing organizers and whistleblowers and a leaked memo obtained by Vice shows higher-ups’ plans to smear and discredit at least one of them.

In an open letter posted to his website, Tim Bray, a now-former vice president at Amazon, writes, “At that point I snapped.” After lodging formal complaints and having the proper discussions, he knew that “remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised. So I resigned.”

The victims weren’t abstract entities but real people; here are some of their names: Courtney Bowden, Gerald Bryson, Maren Costa, Emily Cunningham, Bashir Mohammed, and Chris Smalls.

I’m sure it’s a coincidence that every one of them is a person of color, a woman, or both. Right?

Since its original posting, Bray has deleted a “list of adjectives” describing the company’s treatment of those fired workers. He says that “voices I respect told me it was mean-spirited and I decided it didn’t add anything so I took it out.” (“Chickenshit” was one of those adjectives and I get Bray’s decision but also he wasn’t wrong.)

Bray also notes that the company’s actions during the coronavirus pandemic aren’t a divergence from its past behavior.

“Firing whistleblowers isn’t just a side-effect of macroeconomic forces, nor is it intrinsic to the function of free markets. It’s evidence of a vein of toxicity running through the company culture. I choose neither to serve nor drink that poison,” he writes.

At the end of the day, it’s all about power balances. The warehouse workers are weak and getting weaker, what with mass unemployment and (in the US) job-linked health insurance. So they’re gonna get treated like crap, because capitalism. Any plausible solution has to start with increasing their collective strength.

You can read Bray’s full letter here.

(via Vice, image: VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.