Amazon Warehouse Worker Christian Smalls Fired For Coronavirus Whistle Blowing
Amazon white-collar employees are fuming over management targeting a fired warehouse worker.
Leaked internal emails show employee dismay over how their company is handling escalating labor disputes during the coronavirus pandemic.
Some Amazon corporate employees are angry and disgusted over how their company is handling escalating labor disputes at its warehouses, where facility workers say the company is not doing enough to protect them from exposure to the Covid-19 coronavirus.
On internal company email lists and chat groups on Thursday and Friday that Recode viewed, Amazon white-collar workers expressed dismay over a report from Vice News that the company’s top lawyer had referred to a recently fired warehouse worker as “not smart, or articulate” and implied that executives should use that to help squelch worker unionization efforts.
Amazon general counsel David Zapolsky had used that language to describe the fired warehouse worker, Christian Smalls, in notes from a meeting on Wednesday attended by top Amazon executives, including CEO Jeff Bezos.
In the wake of the revelation, stunned Amazon corporate employees aired their disappointment in leadership on a listserv that includes thousands of fellow employees. Others convened in smaller virtual groups on Amazon’s workplace messaging service, Chime, after an employee moderator shut down one of the email threads.
“We are in a challenging and exceptional situation — but this type of behavior doesn’t align with our [leadership principles] or the image and values we try to embody when working with customers and candidates,” one Amazon employee wrote Friday on one of the email threads viewed by Recode. “If this isn’t [a] situation where people should have backbone and insist on higher standards for our leadership then what are we even doing here.”
A different employee referred to the Zapolsky situation and that an employee moderator shut down the discussion as “probably the most concerning event and subsequent silencing I have seen at Amazon.”
And another employee expressing concern over the conversation being shut down wrote, “a worker at the bottom of our company’s hierarchy being treated like this strikes me as being exactly the kind of inclusivity and diversity issue that should be discussed openly at Amazon.”
An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on the employee conversations.
The internal backlash to Zapolsky’s comments suggests growing internal schisms between a new generation of rank-and-file employees at Amazon, who are more prone to challenging the tech giant’s broader societal impact, and executive leaders, many of whom have worked alongside CEO Jeff Bezos for more than 20 years.
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