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Amazon VP quits over firing of workers, calls it a ‘chickenshit’ move

A top engineer at Amazon Web Services has resigned over Amazon’s firings of workers who raised concerns over coronavirus safety measures, calling the company’s move “chickenshit.”

In a blog post on his personal site, vice president of AWS Tim Bray said that he is leaving his position after over five years at the company due to the “dismay” he feels about the firing of workers who complained about the company’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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As well as being a vice president, Bray was also a Distinguished Engineer at Amazon, and is known for his previous work contributing to foundational web standards including co-authoring the original XML specification. He estimates that walking away from his current job will cost him over one million dollars pre-tax, and he also mentioned his sadness at leaving “the best job I’ve ever had.”

He said that he was compelled to quit after seeing Amazon’s treatment of workers who took part in employee activism, beginning with threatening workers involved in the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice group with dismissal and culminating with a leaked internal Amazon memo which insulted and targeted a worker who said he was fired after organizing a strike due to safety concerns.

That worker, Chris Smalls, was canned after organizing a protest at a New York City warehouse. Amazon has said Smalls was fired for breaking orders to quarantine himself.

Two other activist leaders who voiced concerns over the company’s response to the coronavirus and the safety of warehouse employees, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, were also recently fired for violating company policies.

Bray said that he attempted to raise his problems with this approach through the appropriate channels, but the company’s response was not satisfactory to him and that “remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised.”

He also pointed out that the targets of these actions by the company were notably women and people of color.

Bray didn’t pull any punches in his assessment of the firings, saying they were “designed to create a climate of fear” and “like painting a sign on your forehead saying ‘Either guilty, or has something to hide.’ ”

Amazon declined to comment about Bray’s resignation.

Labor pressure has been building at Amazon since the pandemic hit, with workers and employees accusing the company of not doing enough to protect and compensate workers. In previous statements to Digital Trends, Amazon has said it has increased pay and supplied protective equipment for workers.

“We encourage anyone interested in the facts to compare our overall pay and benefits, as well as our speed in managing this crisis, to other retailers and major employers across the country,” an Amazon spokesperson told Digital Trends.

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