Nearly 2,000 Amazon workers to walk out after return to office

ByMax Zahn ABCNews logo
Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Nearly 2,000 Amazon workers plan to walk out on Wednesday as the company weathers layoffs and a mandate that corporate employees return to the office.

"Employees need a say in decisions that affect our lives," said a petition from worker groups Amazon Employees for Climate Justice and Amazon's Remote Advocacy.

The employee activism follows a series of layoffs in recent months. In early January, Amazon announced plans to eliminate just over 18,000 roles, including impending layoffs announced in November. In all, the company has slashed 27,000 jobs since last fall.

At the outset of this month the company mandated corporate employees return to the office at least three days per week.

The employee petition cited the return-to-work policy and Amazon's ongoing climate impact as evidence that company leadership is "taking us in the wrong direction."

As of Wednesday afternoon, the petition had been signed by 1,922 Amazon employees, including 913 in Seattle, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice and Amazon's Remote Advocacy said. The company employs more than 1.5 million people worldwide, according to an annual report released last week.

In a statement to ABC News, Amazon spokesperson Brad Glasser said the company stands by its decision to bring corporate employees back to the office.

"We're always listening and will continue to do so, but we're happy with how the first month of having more people back in the office has been. There's more energy, collaboration, and connections happening, and we've heard this from lots of employees and the businesses that surround our offices," Glasser said.

"We understand that it's going to take time to adjust back to being in the office more and there are a lot of teams at the company working hard to make this transition as smooth as possible for employees," he added.

As for employees' concerns over the company's climate impact, Glasser said: "We continue to push hard on getting to net carbon zero by 2040, and we have over 400 companies who've joined us in our Climate Pledge. While we all would like to get there tomorrow, for companies like ours who consume a lot of power, and have very substantial transportation, packaging, and physical building assets, it'll take time to accomplish."

Sales at top tech firms have retreated from the blistering pace attained during the pandemic, when billions across the world were forced into isolation.

Customers stuck at home came to rely on delivery services like e-commerce and virtual connections formed through social media and videoconferencing.

Many tech stocks have surged in recent months, however, due in part to optimism about the potential benefits of artificial intelligence.

Shares of Amazon have climbed almost 30% since March 1.

The walkout among Amazon employees, which appears to be made up predominantly of corporate workers, comes more than a year after warehouse workers at a Staten Island facility established the company's first-ever union in the U.S.

Warehouse workers, however, have faced difficulty sustaining the momentum. In the months following the victory, labor campaigns were defeated overwhelmingly in elections at two other Amazon warehouses in New York.

Meanwhile, sharp divisions emerged within the Amazon Labor Union, the worker-led union behind the victory, according to previous interviews with four current and former workers at the Staten Island facility.

The walkout petition on Wednesday called for policy changes that would improve conditions for employees throughout the company.

"Our goal is to change Amazon's cost/benefit analysis on making harmful, unilateral decisions that are having an outsized impact on people of color, women, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable people," the petition said.

Calling on employees to sign on to the walkout, the petition added: "The more pledges, the stronger our voice."