Why Amazon Employees Are Protesting Over Climate Change

Photo: Alex Wong (Getty Images)

On September 20, over 1,000 Amazon employees—mostly made up of staff at the company’s Seattle headquarters—will walk out of Amazon offices to protest the company’s inaction over climate change, as part of the larger global climate strike. The strike, led by 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg, is a protest against the continued use of fossil fuels and their role in the climate crisis.

“This will be the first time that Amazon workers at corporate offices are walking out, and it’s the first walkout in the tech industry over the climate crisis,” Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, a group made of Amazon employees who have organized the walkout, said in a press statement.

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But what exactly are employees protesting? And what can we expect from Amazon? (Here’s a spoiler: Not much.)

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What are they protesting?

In a statement, the group said they are protesting the company’s “intensive” use of fossil fuels, contracts with fossil fuel companies that use the company’s technology to facilitate oil and gas production, and history of funding Congressmembers who have voted against climate legislation. (68 members in 2018, to be exact; Amazon was also a donor for a gala organized by an institute that dispels the “myths” of climate change.)

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Last year, AECJ urged Amazon’s board of directors and Jeff Bezos to adopt a climate plan resolution—undersigned by 8,215 employees—which included making public commitments to cut emissions and reduce pollution in communities impacted most by climate change. The resolution never passed.

Back in July, an estimated 75 Amazon warehouse workers in Minnesota also went on a one-day strike on Amazon Prime Day, demanding better wages and safer working conditions; a similar strike took place in Germany. Amazon, for the most part, remained unaffected and a spokesperson said that protestors “conjured misinformation” in their favor.

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Photo: Jeff Sullivan (Getty Images)

What are they demanding?

AECJ’s demands for Amazon are ambitious and include goals like:

  • Zero contracts with fossil fuel companies.
  • Zero funding for climate-denying lobbyists and politicians.
  • Zero emissions by 2030, including the incorporation of electric vehicles in communities most affected by climate change. “A commitment from Amazon has the power to move industries. Investment by the company in electrified aviation or maritime shipping would be a game-changer,” says AECJ.

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In April, and despite commitments to sustainability, Gizmodo reported Amazon’s Web Services have actively courted the fossil fuel industry, which fueled AECJ’s demand for zero contracts with such companies.

Has Amazon responded?

In a statement to Wired, Amazon didn’t directly address news of the walkout but used the opportunity to emphasize its sustainability initiatives. “Playing a significant role in helping to reduce the sources of human-induced climate change is an important commitment for Amazon,” they told Wired. “We have dedicated sustainability teams who have been working for years on initiatives to reduce our environmental impact.”

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Amazon has made efforts to combat its impact on the environment, including its adoption of “frustration-free” packaging and the recent announcement of its “Shipment Zero” project—a commitment to achieve net-zero carbon for half of all its shipments by 2030 through continued use of recyclable packaging, electric vehicles, and renewable energy. According to the company’s announcement in February, they will share Amazon’s “company-wide carbon footprint” later this year; Amazon has not yet made these figures public.