UPDATE: Organizers now say the walkout will include more than 1,50o workers, up from the original 900.
On the morning of September 20, workers at Amazon’s corporate offices will walk off the job for the first time since the company launched 25 years ago. The goal: to push the tech giant to act faster to address climate change.
The walkout, which 941 Amazon employees have pledged to take part in so far, is part of the larger Global Climate Strike led by the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. At a handful of companies, offices will shut down completely—Seventh Generation, for example, is giving employees in 30 countries time off work to protest, and Burton is closing its offices, redirecting its e-commerce site to the Global Climate Strike home page, and closing its stores to offer community gathering spaces before marches. But at Amazon, the walkout is the latest step by a group of employees working internally to get the company to do far more.
In a Medium post, the group, called Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, quotes Jeff Bezos: “It’s hard to find an issue that is more important than climate change.” But then they point out Amazon’s role in the problem. As the company runs warehouses and makes deliveries, it’s racking up greenhouse gas emissions. It has designed custom tech to help oil and gas companies work faster to exploit new oil and gas reserves. It also helps fund a climate-denial think tank and members of Congress who have consistently voted against climate legislation.
Amazon workers want the company to end contracts to make custom solutions for oil and gas companies, citing the fact that research says that companies can’t continue extracting new fossil fuels now and keep global emissions in check. They also want the company to stop funding the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Koch-backed climate-denial group that is currently working with the Trump administration, and climate-denying politicians. Previously, the employees pushed for a shareholder resolution that would have required the company to release a plan for reducing emissions. “As employees at one of the largest and most powerful companies in the world, our role in facing the climate crisis is to ensure our company is leading on climate, not following,” they write. “We have to take responsibility for the impact that our business has on the planet and on people.”
Earlier this year, Amazon pledged to make half of its shipments carbon neutral by 2030. Amazon employees are asking the company to get to zero emissions across the entire company in the same time frame, noting that while the transition would be challenging, the technology for short-haul electric shipping, for example, already exists, and short-haul electric flights are coming soon. Amazon, they argue, should be helping drive a faster transformation of transportation. “A commitment from Amazon has the power to move industries,” they write. “Investment by the company in electrified aviation or maritime shipping would be a game-changer.” The company also previously pledged to move to 100% renewable electricity, though it’s only halfway to that goal, while Google and Apple have already gone all the way.