Amazon Employees Claim Company Threatened to Fire Them Over Climate Change Activism

Amazon workers are speaking out after the company allegedly threatened to fire them over their stances on environmental issues.

In a news release shared on Twitter yesterday, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice claimed that some of its members had been contacted by Amazon’s legal and HR representatives after publicly discussing the retailer’s role in climate change. It alleged that the workers received emails threatening the termination of their employment if they continued to speak out about Amazon’s business.

“Now is a time when we need to have communications policies that let us speak honestly about our company’s role in the climate crisis,” said Maren Costa, a user experience principal designer at Amazon who was allegedly threatened with termination after an interview with The Washington Post. “This is not the time to shoot the messengers. This is not the time to silence those who are speaking out.”

The group — which challenges the e-tail giant to reach zero carbon emissions and limit its work with fossil fuel firms, among others — said that Amazon’s purported warning to employees came just one month after the Seattle-based company announced its Climate Pledge in September. At the time, CEO and founder Jeff Bezos committed to achieving carbon neutrality by drastically reducing its emissions within the next two decades.

According to an AECJ press release on Thursday, its members had been calling on Amazon to tackle the issue of climate change for nearly a year. However, the organization added that the retailer updated its policy about employees speaking to the press and on social media early that month — just one day after AECJ announced plans to organize walkouts across the world on Sept. 20 for the youth-led Global Climate Strike. (The new protocol requires workers to seek prior approval to speak about the firm in any public forum while identified as an employee.)

“Amazon’s policy is not going to stop the momentum tech workers have built over the past year at Amazon,” said Amazon data engineer Justin Campbell. “The climate crisis is the greatest challenge we face, and the only way we can find solutions is by protecting people’s right to speak freely and disrupting the status quo.”

An Amazon spokesperson said in a statement to FN: “Our policy regarding external communications is not new and, we believe, is similar to other large companies. We recently updated the policy and related approval process to make it easier for employees to participate in external activities such as speeches, media interviews and use of the company’s logo. As with any company policy, employees may receive a notification from our HR team if we learn of an instance where a policy is not being followed.”

In December 2018, AECJ filed a shareholder resolution urging the firm to report its plans to reduce its dependence of fossil fuels, garnering the support of more than 8,700 employees. (Amazon had already promised to use renewable energy sources to power some of its infrastructure.) Shareholders, however, rejected the proposal at the retailer’s annual meeting in May.

This story has been updated with comments from Amazon.

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