After the Washington Post broke the news that Amazon workers were planning a walkout of their downtown Seattle offices in protest of the company’s recent layoffs and the end of its full-time work-from-home policy, there has been a lot of discussion on whether workers are justified in protesting.
On the Gee & Ursula Show, co-host Gee Scott said that while he understands why workers are upset, he doesn’t think protesting will do anything except be harmful to vulnerable employees.
Seattle Amazon workers plan to walkout next week
“Sometimes you got to be careful,” Gee said. “And not everybody can do some of those things. I think that I understand what they’re trying to do because they are upset about the layoffs. They are upset about having to come back to work. And I do believe in the right to protest, the right to speak up and let your voices be heard. But I don’t know if this is going to really get what they want. This isn’t going to stop anything.”
The lunchtime protest is planned for May 31, a week after Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting and a month after a policy took effect requiring workers to return to the office three days per week. It’s contingent on at least 1,000 Amazon employees from the company’s Seattle headquarters agreeing to participate.
Amazon has cut 27,000 jobs since November. The layoffs have affected workers in advertising, human resources, gaming, stores, devices and Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud computing division. Amazon has also ended entire projects, including its health care endeavor, Amazon Care, and a philanthropic program, Amazon Smile.
“Morale feels like it’s at an all-time low,” said an Amazon employee who plans to participate in the walkout, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their job. “In meetings and one-on-ones with colleagues, there’s so much uncertainty and lack of clarity from leadership. … It’s an unsettling time to work at Amazon.”
More than 20,000 workers signed a petition urging Amazon to reconsider the return-to-office mandate.
Co-host Ursula Reutin said that the employees need to reconsider the walkout, especially as the company has already cut so many other jobs.
“I’m sorry, but when you are seeing thousands of your colleagues losing their jobs, and your company says they want you to come back to work, you need to read the room,” Ursula said. “I don’t care what skin color you have, I don’t care who you are, it’s like you look around you say this is what the company wants. Perhaps this is not the time for me to show my entitlement and say, I don’t want to do what you’re telling me you want me to do.”
Amazon was one of the first companies to say it had overhired during the pandemic. Rising interest rates hit the tech industry particularly hard by hurting the ability of start-ups, in particular, to gain easy access to cash. Meta, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon all slashed tens of thousands of jobs in an effort to keep the balance sheet stable.
Producer Andrew “Chef” Lanier argued that the Amazon employees were right in protesting the company’s actions because some of them had been brought on under the assumption that they would be able to continue working remotely.
“Why is this entitlement? Why is this privilege? A ton of them were hired under the supposition that Amazon is going to continue to be a 100% remote work company. Now, will this change anything? No, but I’m cheering for them,” Chef said. “If the Seattle Seahawks decided, ‘You know what, we’re going to have games every single weekday, and they’re going to start at nine o’clock a.m.’ Because that’s what 55,000 people on our roads every morning is doing to our traffic, it’s the equivalent of a Seahawks game every single day.”
You can listen to Gee and Ursula’s full discussion on the walkout here:
Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.