May 4, 2020 - Economy

Top Amazon Web Services engineer resigns after worker firings

An Amazon distribution center in Las Vegas.

An Amazon distribution center in Las Vegas. Photo: David Becker/AFP via Getty Images

Tim Bray, vice president and distinguished engineer at Amazon Web Services, announced Monday in a blog post that he resigned after the company fired workers who raised concerns about warehouse employees frightened of the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Bray said he strongly disagreed with the firings of a number of employees, including Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, who link their terminations to their public criticism of Amazon’s treatment of employees during the coronavirus pandemic, according to TechCrunch.

Context: Amazon denied the connection, saying it terminated the employees for violating internal policies.

  • Bray worked for Amazon for five years and called the position “the best job I’ve ever had."

What he's saying: "[A]t the end of the day, the big problem isn’t the specifics of Covid-19 response," Bray wrote. "It’s that Amazon treats the humans in the warehouses as fungible units of pick-and-pack potential. Only that’s not just Amazon, it’s how 21st-century capitalism is done."

  • "Amazon is exceptionally well-managed and has demonstrated great skill at spotting opportunities and building repeatable processes for exploiting them. It has a corresponding lack of vision about the human costs of the relentless growth and accumulation of wealth and power."
  • Bray wrote that staying in his position after the firings "would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised. So I resigned."

Thought Bubble, from Axios' Scott Rosenberg: Bray is an engineering expert whose role at Amazon Web Services put him at a far end of the giant’s operations from its retail warehouses.

  • His resignation represents a high-profile act of dissent at the tech giant, but engineers have a lot more job mobility than many other workers.

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