Amazon Workers Plan Walkout Over Inaction on Fossil Fuels

Hundreds of Amazon employees plan on staging a walkout on Sept. 20 to protest the tech giant's inaction on phasing out all fossil fuels.

So far, 941 employees have pledged to join the walkout, which is calling on Amazon to help stop climate change by cutting all carbon emissions by 2030. Other demands include stopping all funding to "climate denying lobbyists and politicians," and to cut Amazon Web Services' contracts with fossil fuel companies.

"Amazon has the resources and scale to spark the world's imagination and redefine what is possible and necessary to address the climate crisis," the workers wrote in a Monday blog post.

The employees are preparing the protest after more than 8,000 workers signed an open letter in April, urging Amazon to adopt a plan to eventually drop fossil fuels. The employees also submitted a shareholder proposal to compel the company to release a plan to tackle climate change.

Although the shareholder proposal failed to secure enough votes, Amazon did commit to the more modest goal of achieving "net zero" carbon emissions on 50 percent of all shipments by 2030. In other words, the company plans to control its carbon footprint over the next decade, but not necessarily reduce them overall, let alone eliminate the company's dependency on fossil fuels.

The protesting workers say that's not enough. "Amazon is one of the world's most innovative companies. We pride ourselves on being a leader. But in the face of the climate crisis, a true leader is one who reaches zero emissions first, not one who slides in at the last possible moment," they wrote in the blog post.

The protest threat arrives as the tech giant has been focused on making one-day shipping the standard on Amazon Prime, which currently offers free two-day shipping on eligible orders. To cut down on delivery times, Amazon has been spending a fortune building out the necessary infrastructure, and also buying up diesel-powered minivans.

In response, the workers are calling on Amazon to transition to electric-based shipping services. "A commitment from Amazon has the power to move industries. Investment by the company in electrified aviation or maritime shipping would be a game-changer," the workers added.

However, Amazon told PCMag the company is committed to help cutting carbon emissions. "We have dedicated sustainability teams who have been working for years on initiatives to reduce our environmental impact," a spokesperson said in an email. "Over the past decade through our sustainable packaging programs, we've eliminated more than 244,000 tons of packaging materials and avoided 500 million shipping boxes."

Amazon plans on sharing a company-wide carbon footprint later this year, alongside information about how the e-commerce giant is reaching its carbon emission goals. According to Amazon, the company employs more than 200 scientists, engineers, and product designers devoted to making it environmentally friendly. That said, the company made no mention of hitting a more aggressive goal on reducing carbon emissions.

The Sept. 20 walkout will start at 11:30 a.m. local time at Amazon's offices in Seattle and will last throughout the day. The event joins the "Global Climate Strike," which is calling on the public to walk out of offices to demand an end to fossil fuel dependency.

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