Amazon’s warehouses have come under scrutiny for how the company treats its workers.


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Amazon has fired two tech workers after they spoke out publicly against warehouse conditions during the coronavirus pandemic. User experience designers Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, both active members of the advocacy group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, had reportedly offered match donations up to $500 for warehouse workers, citing insufficient protections. 

The company confirmed the firings in a statement emailed to CNET. “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,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “We terminated these employees for repeatedly violating internal policies.

Amazon on Tuesday confirmed it also fired Bashir Mohamed, a Minnesota warehouse employee who was involved in organizing worker demonstrations. BuzzFeed earlier reported on his termination. 

Amazon spokeswoman Kristen Kish said in a statement that the company respects employees’ rights to protest and recognizes its right to do so, but said health and safety concerns needed to be considered. “This individual was terminated as a result of progressive disciplinary action for inappropriate language, behavior, and violating social distancing guidelines,” she said.

Last month, the company fired New York warehouse worker Christian Smalls for violating “multiple safety issues” by defying instructions to stay home with pay for 14 days because he’d been in close contact with an infected employee. Smalls was a central organizer in a protest against working conditions at his Staten Island facility. His termination sparked a loud outcry against the company from advocacy groups and elected officials, who pushed to get him reinstated.

The Washington Post, a paper owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, on Tuesday reported on the two tech workers’ terminations. 

These firings come as Amazon’s leadership struggles to get a handle on a series of simultaneous crises during the coronavirus pandemic, as the company tries to fulfill a surge in customer orders, maintain clean warehouses and respond to increasingly vocal workers complaining about their facilities’ conditions.

Amazon is also pushing forward with a second major hiring spree to respond to this spike in demand, announcing on Monday plans to hire 75,000 more workers. Last month, it revealed plans to hire 100,000 people and said Monday it already completed that round of hiring.

Costa and Cunningham were warned about violating company policies as recently as January, with human resources saying they were speaking publicly about Amazon’s climate efforts without proper approvals first. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice shot back with a Medium post that included over 350 names of Amazon employees showing their support for the workers.


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