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Report: Amazon workers in Seattle planning late-May walkout over layoffs, return-to-office mandate

SEATTLE — Hundreds of Amazon workers in Seattle are planning to walk out on the job on May 31, according to a report from the Washington Post.

The Post cites internal messages shared by employees over Slack and email, which listed Amazon’s return-to-office mandate, climate commitments, and recent layoffs among the reasons for the walkout.

One employee based out of Los Angeles quoted by the Washington Post went so far as to say that “morale feels like it’s at an all-time low.”

Amazon announced plans to lay off 9,000 workers in late March, not long over the company cut over 18,000 jobs. Layoffs extended to a variety of teams, including Amazon Web Services, PXT Solutions, advertising, and Twitch.

“However, given the uncertain economy in which we reside, and the uncertainty that exists in the near future, we have chosen to be more streamlined in our costs and headcount,” CEO Andy Jassy said in late March.

Regarding the planned walkout, a company spokesperson said, “we respect our employees’ rights to express their opinions.”

Meanwhile, Amazon is facing a record number of resolutions at its annual shareholders’ meeting Wednesday.

A look at the meeting agenda shows five company measures Amazon is in favor of, and 18 resolutions the company appears to be against. The resolutions could all get voted down, but many are trying to hold Amazon responsible for issues like plastic pollution, warehouse conditions, climate concerns, workers’ rights and diversity.

Professor Jeff Shulman with the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington says the accountability is coming from many different angles,

“We see activist investors, we see people are trying to push Amazon to play a more positive role in society… If people can make Amazon more socially responsible that would have a profound impact, given how much of an impact Amazon has on everyone’s lives,” said Shulman.

Shulman says Amazon helps drive the US and global economy with sales, and also drives the internet with Amazon Web Services as more customers turn to Amazon for online services.

That has led people to protest and push the company for corporate responsibility. Shulman says anything shareholders do impacts Seattle.

“Anything that can impact Amazon stock price is going to have an impact on home prices here; have an impact on small businesses here; and have an impact on a lot of lives as thousands of people work in this region,” said Shulman.

Oceana is a nonprofit group focused on preserving the oceans, and the group has a major concern when it comes to plastic. The organization is hoping that a resolution that calls on Amazon to deal with its heavy use of plastic is supported by shareholders.

Matt Littlejohn, a Senior Vice President with Oceana, spoke to KIRO 7 about the group’s recent efforts to bring publicity to the issue of Amazon and reducing plastics in packaging with a series of actions in Seattle.

“We’re super excited because we think people in Seattle, as I said, care about the oceans, care about the environment. We’ve been on the streets of Seattle canvassing, we’ve had trucks out with mobile billboards,” said Littlejohn.

Littlejohn and Oceana took action and felt concerns about Amazon’s plastic use should go to employees, many of whom are shareholders. Oceana says last year it had 49% support for a report and action on plastic packaging. Amazon has said that its work to reduce plastics led to a 7% reduction in packaging weight in 2021 by removing nearly 100,000 metric tons of plastic worldwide.

Amazon has said in most responses to the resolutions, that it’s already working on the goals, so the measures aren’t necessary.

The resolutions require 53% of shareholders for passage — they are not binding and are mostly recs.

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