You have to give a lot of credit to Tim Bray, an Amazon vice-president who quit over the company’s treatment of workers. He was making a big sacrifice to expose Amazon’s corruption.
May 1st was my last day as a VP and Distinguished Engineer at Amazon Web Services, after five years and five months of rewarding fun. I quit in dismay at Amazon firing whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of Covid-19.
What with big-tech salaries and share vestings, this will probably cost me over a million (pre-tax) dollars, not to mention the best job I’ve ever had, working with awfully good people. So I’m pretty blue.
He makes a point of mentioning the names of the fired activists:
The victims weren’t abstract entities but real people; here are some of their names: Courtney Bowden, Gerald Bryson, Maren Costa, Emily Cunningham, Bashir Mohammed, and Chris Smalls.
I’m sure it’s a coincidence that every one of them is a person of color, a woman, or both. Right?
Even if it wasn’t intentional bigotry, it’s still no coincidence that Amazon is hiring the underprivileged and desperate to do tedious labor in their warehouses.
He even provides a solution…a solution that has to be enforced outside of the Amazon executive boardroom.
Amazon is exceptionally well-managed and has demonstrated great skill at spotting opportunities and building repeatable processes for exploiting them. It has a corresponding lack of vision about the human costs of the relentless growth and accumulation of wealth and power. If we don’t like certain things Amazon is doing, we need to put legal guardrails in place to stop those things. We don’t need to invent anything new; a combination of antitrust and living-wage and worker-empowerment legislation, rigorously enforced, offers a clear path forward.
As long as Republicans and conservative Democrats hold power, though, no one is going to have the political will to make Jeff Bezos do the right thing.