Amazon employees plan to quit the job as tensions rise between the tech workers

SAN FRANCISCO — On Monday, some Amazon workers at the company’s Seattle headquarters announced their plans to quit work.

In messages sent via Slack and email, employee organizers urged their colleagues to get out on May 31 — one week after the company’s annual meeting of shareholders — in response to frustration with layoffs and the back-to-office mandate, as well as concerns about Amazon’s climate commitments.

“Espiral feels like it’s at an all-time low,” said the Amazon employee in Los Angeles and planning to participate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect his job. “In face-to-face meetings with colleagues, there is a lot of uncertainty and lack of clarity from leadership. … It’s a troubling time working at Amazon.”

The strike, which organizers hope will attract at least 1,000 participants from Seattle, is part of a larger wave of anxiety that has spilled over into agitation among Silicon Valley workers as a hiring freeze came after mass layoffs amid a potential recession looming.

At the Meta, morale plummeted as the top managers gave a warm welcome bonuses as the company continues to lay off thousands of people. At Google, employees are preparing to cut more jobs.

During a recent round of earnings calls, tech executives generally painted a better financial picture for the companies. But now workers in companies with a bad reputation are getting more and more agitated – even as their ability to effect change diminishes as they lack job security.

Layoffs always create a “sense of betrayal” among workers, said Nelson Lichtenstein, a labor historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara, which is why it makes sense for workers to express frustration even in the current economic environment.

“In many of these high-tech companies, there is a certain sense of creating a new world, something better,” he said. “When you have a particular sense of injustice and righteousness, you can still take action on the part of a worker or employee, even in periods of stagnation or depression. Sometimes that feeling goes beyond moral outrage.”

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Meta declined to comment. Amazon spokeswoman Lisa Levandowski said, “We respect the rights of our employees to express their opinions.”

Amazon founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.

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The tech-related issues started about a year ago, as interest rates soared and hurt startups in particular’s ability to easily access cash. Amazon was one of the first companies to say it was over hiring during the pandemic because it responded to an overwhelming influx of demand. By November, after Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover and subsequent staff cuts, other tech giants quickly followed suit. Meta, Google, Microsoft and Amazon eventually announced layoffs, cutting tens of thousands of jobs that were once some of the most relevant and highest paying jobs on the market.

In a March blog post, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg called 2023 “the year of efficiency,” saying, “While I know many of you are psyched about this, I also recognize that the idea of ​​upcoming regulatory changes creates uncertainty and stress.” .

For more than a decade, investors have offered tech executives nearly unlimited bandwidth to spend in hopes of dominating the market and discovering the next great technology. The tech industry was a gold rush, and its headquarters, San Francisco, was a boomtown. But now, storefronts and office buildings stand empty, and old friends waiting in line for the bus home ask each other questions like, “Did you survive the cuts?”

Critics of Silicon Valley’s spiraling spending might say the hot tech gig has to come to an end sometime. But the mood among those who haven’t already lost their jobs reflects months of growing anxiety about the direction the industry – and the economy more broadly – is headed.

Google is cutting some office franchises

The implementation of back-to-office policies is also adding to anxiety at Google, where workers have been anxiously waiting since January for rumors of additional layoffs to materialize. Employees are concerned the company may use internal rules to reduce headcount without announcing layoffs, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

At Meta, the company expects more layoffs this month in the third wave of a months-long workforce reduction that will eliminate 10,000 jobs. As news of the cuts spread, employees turned to Blind, an app that gives users with company email access to a private, anonymous message board to exchange information about cuts and concerns about company leadership. In March, users took an anonymous poll on the platform about whether they wanted Zuckerberg to leave the company, according to copies of the post seen by The Post.

Some workers have blamed corporate CEOs for failing to make better investments or avoid an overly optimistic hiring spree that partially led to these cuts in the first place, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. Others were enraged to discover the layoffs from news reports and the lack of clarity from senior leaders about the company’s overall mission, the people said.

Tensions between rank-and-file employees and the company’s top leaders flared again earlier this year after Meta regulatory filings revealed that the social media giant had awarded some highly lucrative bonuses to senior executives based on performance that exceeded the company’s overall ratings. Later, Zuckerberg announced in an internal meeting that the company would change the bonus scheme for top executives after employee complaints, according to a copy of his notes obtained by The Post.

At Amazon, the company has cut 27,000 jobs since 2022.

Four days after Amazon announced 9,000 additional jobs on March 20, employees received more bad news: The company’s head of human resources rejected a petition signed by more than 30,000 of them demanding a reconsideration of the return-to-office mandate.

As a result, not only would all employees be required to appear in person three days a week, but some employees would have to pack up, sell their homes, and move without knowing if the job they were moving for would still exist by the time they got there.

“There are a lot of people who are stuck and unsure of how long they’ve been working,” said the Los Angeles-based employee. “For me, it comes down to this complete lack of communication and transparency from the leadership.”

Amazon recently cut employee stock compensation, closed divisions, killed products, and lost leadership.

In March, thousands of employees joined a Slack group to discuss return-to-office policy and began pressuring the company to change its stance. When that failed, these employees eventually decided to organize the strike now scheduled to take place next week.

The action — which will only advance if at least 1,000 Seattle employees sign up to participate — is a joint effort of two parties: one is an informal group that arose in response to the back-to-office mandate, and the other is Amazon employees for climate justice.

The climate group staged a strike in 2019 that pressured Amazon to stick to its climate pledge, which promised the company to be net zero carbon by 2040. But four years later, employees involved in the group say Amazon is not living up to the promises it made.

“Amazon is full of smart people who want to solve problems. We’re asking them to solve problems like figuring out what a more sustainable Amazon looks like,” said the Los Angeles-based employee. “Instead of engaging in that conversation, Amazon’s leadership team is constantly breaking our trust.”

One of Amazon’s core tenets is its so-called “day one mentality,” which is supposed to mean that the company operates with the flexibility and enthusiasm of a startup on the day its business opens. But the staff organizing the strike say management is now “displaying day two behavior and leading us in the wrong direction”.

“I think there’s a lot of frustration with the company on many fronts, and it all stems from the same place: leadership making a unilateral decision without the input of its workers,” said an Amazon employee in Seattle who spoke about the condition. From anonymity to protect their jobs. “And I think a lot of people are in a similar situation where they just finished. They are fed up. They want to be heard.”

Gerrit De Vinck contributed reporting.

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