Speaking out at great Risk against the Behemoth
In the beginning of 2020, e-commerce tech conglomerate Amazon issued a new policy aimed at preventing its employees from speaking publicly without company approval. Now, the company is threatening to reprimand or even terminate employees who attend climate action rallies or speak out about Amazon’s carbon emissions.
The Amazon workers, however, are not reacting passively to these threats. Instead, they are banding together to form the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ) to show solidarity and pressure the higher-ups to change their energy-related business practices.
The AECJ was only recently formed, but has already extended invitations to thousands of Amazon employees. In an email disseminated by the organization, Amazon workers were asked a number of questions about the company’s ethics. In particular, the note asks employees how they feel about Amazon’s sustainability practices—the issue at the center of the AECJ’s agenda.
Controversies Continue to Build at the eCommerce Giant
In recent years, Amazon has been in hot water on a number of political issues. Climate change is just one of them. CEO Jeff Bezos has been highly criticized for his business dealings with major oil and gas companies, buying into and financially supporting a number of fossil-fuel burning juggernauts. Although Bezos has expressed plans for Amazon to go carbon neutral by 2040 and has hinted at halting donations towards climate-denying politicians, all outlooks are shrouded in noncommittal uncertainty and effectively dodge the question of Amazon’s ongoing relationships with the fossil fuel industry.
Amazon employees appear to have finally had enough of this. Last September, hundreds of Amazon workers participated in a climate action walkout, where they pressured the company to reassess its carbon output. Around the same time, Amazon invested in 100,000 electric vehicles—something that should be celebrated, but nevertheless remains a rather hollow gesture in light of the larger picture.
Governments and Giant Corporations must be Forced to lead the way, if Necessary
The fossil fuel industry, the benefits reaped by the human race notwithstanding, is the central cause of the climate crisis. Big oil and gas companies, backed by politicians and funded by elite organizations, are the major cause of carbon emissions in the world. Even if every individual does his or her part to live sustainably, climate change will continue to occur at a brutal pace unless there is a large-scale transformation in the energy sector. This is a change that no one person can really instigate, but an international institution such as Amazon could impact, in a positive or negative way.
Despite its name, the AECJ are working to change Amazon on more fronts than just environmental ones. Amazon has also been rightfully panned for its mistreatment of warehouse workers and its shady dealings with the government, providing data and technology to officials without user consent. The AECJ hopes to reform some of these issues as well and make Amazon a better place to work and a better institution in the world at large. So far, over 340 Amazon employees have signed with the AECJ, risking their jobs to try and create a brighter future from the bottom up.
Granted, Amazon is not alone in its high carbon emissions, data sharing, and workplace ruling unethicalities. Tech companies such as Google, Facebookand Microsoft have been accused of similar moral breaches. Similar to the society at large, though, these corporations are built upon foundations of lower-level workers. These employees are often diligent and passionate, and in many situations, they have a closer connection to common reality than those at the top of the corporate hierarchies. Even in the midst of oppression, these people can have voices, and when they band together for powerful and just causes, those voices have the potential to form a chorus that leads to significant change.
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