Amazon has fired three employees that publicly criticized working conditions at the company for violations of company policy. The company confirmed that it had fired Emily Cunningham, Bashir Mohamed and Maren Costa after several of the employees took to Twitter to voice concerns about how employees were being treated during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Bloomberg.
Amazon commented: “We support every employee’s right to criticize their employer’s working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against any and all internal policies. We terminated these employees for repeatedly violating internal policies.” With regard to Mohamed's firing, the company stated: "This individual was terminated as a result of progressive disciplinary action for inappropriate language, behavior and violating social distancing guidelines."
That... or perhaps Amazon - whose market cap just hit a new all time high - just found their lack of faith in the Jeff Bezos' best intentions disturbing.
More notably, both employees also defied a stricter Amazon corporate policy on employees speaking publicly that was put into place in January, which is a bit of a Catch 22: how can one not "speak publicly" against corporate concerns that the company is clearly hoping to keep out of the public spotlight? Or is it Amazon's new blanket policy to simply fire all whistleblowers?
The employees were among a group that includes U.S. senators and labor leaders who have expressed concerns that Amazon hasn't been doing enough to keep its employees safe during the pandemic. Cases of coronavirus have been found at dozens of Amazon's facilities worldwide, including in the US and Europe.
As a result, some workers have staged walkouts at warehouses in places like New York and Michigan. Cunningham and Costa, who worked at the company's headquarters in Seattle, were said to have violated the company's policy prohibiting employees from speaking publicly about company matters. Ironically, both employees were also leaders in a group called "Amazon Employees for Climate Justice". Cunningham even spoke on behalf of the group at Amazon's 2019 shareholder meeting.
The company also claims it is working diligently to keep warehouses safe and following public health guidance. Amazon has offered temporary raises and lucrative overtime to warehouse employees amidst a hiring binge that seeks to bring in an additional 75,000 employees.
Cunningham commented: “I truly believe Amazon can play an incredibly powerful and good role during COVID-19. But to do that, we have to really listen to the workers who are on the front line, who don’t feel adequately protected. Who fear getting coronavirus, or giving it to their families and the wider public.”
After calling the firings "outrageous", Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, said: “Amazon needs to stop retaliating and start making sure employees are safe, working in sanitary conditions with proper protections.”