Amazon corporate workers staged a walkout on Wednesday to signal a “lack of trust” in the company’s leadership, in what is perhaps the most visible sign of dissent among the e-commerce giant’s office workers in recent memory.
On Wednesday afternoon, organizers of the walkout said more than 1,000 corporate employees participated in the event. Amazon disputed that figure, saying it estimates approximately 300 people participated in the event.
In an email the night before, organizers had said more than 1,800 Amazon employees committed to join the walkout to call attention to employee frustrations on multiple fronts, including the company’s push to get workers in the office at least three days a week.
“We’re here because a lot of Amazonians feel in their gut that something is not right with the company,” Eliza Pan, a former Amazon worker and co-founder of the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice group, said Wednesday at the walkout in Seattle. “And there are a lot of signs of this, such as a rigid, one-size-fits-all return-to-office mandate.”
The main in-person walkout began at noon local time outside Amazon’s Seattle headquarters. Organizers also had a way for employees at other Amazon corporate offices to participate virtually, and livestreamed the event on Twitter.
The walkout was jointly organized by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice and a remote work advocacy group, according to an email from organizers and public social media posts. Workers participating have two main demands: asking the e-commerce giant to put climate impact at the forefront of its decision making, and to provide greater flexibility for how and where employees work.
The protest comes after Amazon, like other Big Tech companies, cut tens of thousands of jobs beginning late last year amid broader macroeconomic uncertainty. All told, Amazon has said this year that it is laying off some 27,000 workers over multiple rounds of cuts.
At the same time, Amazon and other tech companies are trying to get workers into the office more. In February, Amazon said it was requiring thousands of its workers to be in the office for at least three days per week, starting on May 1.
“Morale is really at an all-time low right now,” an Amazon corporate worker based in Los Angeles, who plans on participating in the walkout, told CNN last week after the plans were announced publicly.
A current Amazon worker, who identified only as Pamela, also spoke at the event on Wednesday. She said she was inspired to start an internal Slack channel at Amazon called “remote advocacy” after the three-day return-to-office mandate was announced because she wanted a space where workers could discuss how the new mandate would impact their lives.
“At first, I was really nervous when I started that channel because I thought, ‘Oh, it’s going to be me and, like, five of my best friends,’” she said. “But before I realized what was happening, that channel had 33,000 people in it, a lot of whom are here today.”
She added the Slack channel went on to become “the largest concrete expression of employee dissatisfaction in our entire company history.”
“We can be productive, customer-obsessed. We can do our good work. We can make a difference. And it does not have to be in an office building,” Pamela said to a cheering crowd.
In a statement Wednesday, Amazon acknowledged it may “take time” for some workers to adjust to being in the office more days and said it’s “working hard to make this transition as smooth as possible for employees.”
“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,” Brad Glasser, an Amazon spokesperson, said in the statement. “There’s more energy, collaboration, and connections happening, and we’ve heard this from lots of employees and the businesses that surround our offices.”
Amazon also said it has more than 65,000 corporate and tech employees in the Puget Sound region, where its headquarters is located.
One of the internal groups spearheading the walkout, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, is the same coalition that organized protests slamming the company for inaction on climate change back in 2019.
“Amazon must keep pace with a changing world,” the group wrote in a Twitter thread last week calling for the walkout. “To cultivate a diverse, world-class workplace, we need real plans to tackle our climate impact and flexible work options.”
Amazon’s Climate Pledge, signed in 2019, commits the company to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, among other climate goals. But in the Twitter thread, the group blasted the pledge as “hype” and demanded “a genuine climate plan.”
“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,” Glasser said in the statement Wednesday. “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.”