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Senior Amazon engineer pushes back against ‘chickenshit’ comments

A senior Amazon engineer has publicly responded to ex-vice president Tim Bray’s criticism of the retail giant, saying the former employee was “simply wrong.” 

Brad Porter, the vice president and Distinguished Engineer of Robotics at Amazon, wrote a LinkedIn post this week in response to the former vice president of Amazon Web Services’ very public departure from the company. 

Bray quit Amazon on May 1, calling the company’s firings of employees who organized protests against Amazon warehouse working conditions “chickenshit” and saying the company treats warehouse workers “as fungible units of pick-and-pack potential.” 

In response to Bray’s comments, Porter wrote: “I find that deeply offensive to the core. For those of us who work in World-Wide Operations, nothing could be farther from the truth. Our associates are the most amazing people you will meet anywhere and the heart of everything we do.”

The response is part of an increasingly public debate among company employees about Amazon’s response to the deadly global pandemic and its reaction to worker’s attempts to organize.

Amazon Warehouse

Porter also called out Bray’s comments that the company has been slow in prioritizing warehouse safety. 

“He’s wrong that we were slow. I believe a strong case can be made that Amazon has responded more nimbly to this crisis than any other company in the world,” Porter said. 

Porter wrote about the company’s implementation of thermal cameras, temperature checks, and using artificial intelligence to find out how well employees are social distancing as part of over 150 changes the company has made to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Since the outbreak began, Amazon has also raised its overtime pay for warehouse workers from 1.5 times pay to two times pay and has promised up to two weeks of paid sick leave to warehouse workers who have a confirmed coronavirus diagnosis.

However, workers who do not have a coronavirus diagnosis will not get sick pay, which risks infections spreading among employees who are forced to come to work if they haven’t been tested yet or haven’t gotten test results back.

“Is everyone going to be convinced we are doing enough? No. When you have hundreds of thousands of people coming to work every day who are all experiencing this pandemic differently, you cannot expect everyone to react the same way,” Porter added. 

Amazon’s labor practices have been under fire for some time, but its warehouse working conditions are being especially criticized during the coronavirus pandemic, and more and more of the company’s workers are pushing back.

Amazon recently confirmed that a worker at its Staten Island warehouse died from the coronavirus. The employee worked at the same Amazon warehouse that went on strike in late March over the company’s alleged failure to protect employees from the pandemic. 

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