On Wednesday, Amazon employees worldwide are set to walk off the job in opposition to the company’s recent return-to-office mandate, layoffs, and environmental practices. Approximately 1,900 employees are expected to participate, with around 900 gathering outside the iconic Spheres, located at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, according to the organizing employee groups. The walkout is being partially coordinated by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, a prominent worker organization that has been advocating for the company to take stronger action on climate change.

The protesting employees aim to highlight their lack of trust in the decision-making of company leadership. Amazon recently implemented its largest round of layoffs in its 29-year history, resulting in 27,000 job cuts across various divisions since last autumn. On May 1, the company issued an order requiring corporate employees to work from the office at least three days a week, effectively ending remote work arrangements that had been established during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This walkout comes at a precarious time for Amazon as it navigates economic challenges and slowing retail sales, leaving employees concerned about the possibility of further layoffs. The employees had previously urged Amazon’s leadership to reconsider the return-to-office mandate through a petition addressed to CEO Andy Jassy and the S-team, a group of senior executives from different areas of the company. They argued that the policy contradicts Amazon’s stated positions on diversity, inclusion, affordable housing, sustainability, and being the “Earth’s Best Employer.”

The discontent with the return-to-office mandate spilled over into an internal Slack channel, leading employees to create a group called Remote Advocacy to voice their concerns.

Employees who relocated during the pandemic or were hired for remote roles have expressed worries about how the return-to-office policy will affect them, as reported by CNBC. Over the past three years, Amazon significantly expanded its workforce and hired more employees outside of its key tech hubs, embracing a distributed workforce. Previously, the company had given individual managers the authority to determine the best working arrangements for their teams.

In response to the walkout, Amazon spokesperson Brad Glasser stated that the company is satisfied with the results of its return-to-office initiative so far. Glasser emphasized the increased energy, collaboration, and connections happening in the office, as reported by numerous employees and businesses surrounding Amazon. He acknowledged that the transition back to the office will take time and that teams are working hard to ensure a smooth adjustment for employees.

According to Amazon, the Puget Sound region alone has 65,000 corporate and tech employees, with roughly 350,000 corporate and tech workers worldwide.

The walkout also aims to draw attention to concerns regarding Amazon’s failure to meet its climate commitments. Employees pointed to the company’s latest sustainability report, which revealed a 40% increase in carbon emissions in 2021 compared to 2019, the year when Amazon introduced its “Climate Pledge” plan. Staffers also highlighted a report from last year, which revealed that the company undercounts its carbon footprint by only considering product carbon emissions from the use of Amazon-branded goods, excluding those from manufacturers it directly sources from and sells to consumers.

In response, Glasser stated that Amazon follows the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard to calculate its Scope 3 emissions, which include emissions generated throughout the company’s supply chain.

Additionally, Amazon recently abandoned one of its climate goals, Shipment Zero, which aimed to make 50% of all shipments carbon neutral by 2030. The company has chosen to focus on its broader Climate Pledge, which now sets a goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, a decade later than the original Shipment Zero commitment.

The employee group organizing the walkout stated that their objective is to influence Amazon’s decision-making process, which they believe disproportionately impacts marginalized groups such as people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, and people with disabilities.

Glasser affirmed that Amazon remains committed to becoming net carbon zero across its operations by 2040 and is on track to achieve 100% renewable energy usage by 2025. He acknowledged the time and effort required to accomplish these goals, considering the company’s significant energy consumption and substantial transportation, packaging, and physical assets.

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