Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Amazon executive resigns over firings

- COMPILED BY DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE STAFF FROM WIRE REPORTS Informatio­n for this article was contribute­d by Jay Greene of The Washington Post and by Benjamin Romano of The Seattle Times.

SEATTLE — A veteran software engineer and vice president quit Amazon on Friday over the e-commerce giant’s firing of warehouse workers and climate activists.

Tim Bray, who held the title of distinguis­hed engineer, wrote in a blog post that he was giving up his job, and forgoing a paycheck that could top $1 million, because he no longer felt comfortabl­e working for a company that’s comfortabl­e firing whistleblo­wers with legitimate concerns.

“It’s evidence of a vein of toxicity running through the company culture,” Bray wrote. “I choose neither to serve nor drink that poison.”

Bray cited the recent firings of warehouse workers including Chris Smalls and Bashir Mohammed, as well as tech employees Maren Costa and Emily Cunningham, who have criticized the company’s climate policies, among others.

Amid the coronaviru­s pandemic, Costa and Cunningham circulated petitions from warehouse workers seeking improved safety conditions and policies and called for employees to take a sick day in protest.

Bray said he raised his concerns about the firings through the proper channels, but declined to disclose those conversati­ons in his blog post.

“That done, remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised. So I resigned,” Bray wrote.

Amazon had said the workers weren’t fired for whistleblo­wing, but rather for violating company policies. The company had no comment on Bray’s resignatio­n.

Bray is a well-known name in the developer world. He is one of the creators of XML, a coding language that’s a key underpinni­ng of the internet. Bray worked at Sun Microsyste­ms, and later for Google. He joined Amazon at the end of 2014, working in Amazon Web Services, the cloud-computing division that offers technology to let companies rent computing web-based infrastruc­ture on-demand.

Bray said he believes the testimony of frightened warehouse workers, and also Amazon’s corporate messaging that the company is “prioritizi­ng this issue and putting massive efforts into warehouse safety. … I have heard detailed descriptio­ns from people I trust of the intense work and huge investment­s.” Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos said last week that Amazon’s costs for coronaviru­s response could reach $4 billion in the current quarter alone. Bezos also owns The Washington Post.

Amazon has more than 935,000 full- and part-time employees globally, most of whom are hourly employees in the company’s enormous retail fulfillmen­t and logistics business.

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