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"Don't Shoot the Messengers": Amazon Accused of Threatening to Fire Climate Activists

"Hey @JeffBezos, which side are you on? Climate denial and delay or humanity's?"

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos speaks to the media on the company's sustainability efforts on September 19, 2019 in Washington, D.C.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos speaks to the media on the company's sustainability efforts on September 19, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images)

Greenpeace USA asked Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Friday whether he stood on the side of humanity or that of "climate denial and delay" after a group of Amazon employees said the company threatened to fire them for speaking out about the company's role in the climate crisis.

According to Amazon Employees for Climate Justice—a group founded by workers at the e-commerce giant "who believe it's our responsibility to ensure our business models don't contribute to the climate crisis"—employees who spoke out about the company's "responsibility in the global climate emergency" were contacted by members of Amazon's legal and human resources team and received emails saying they'd be fired if they continued making public comments about the climate impact of Amazon's business practices.

"This is not the time to shoot the messengers," Amazon employee Maren Costa said in a statement Thursday. "This is not the time to silence those who are speaking out."

The statement said the intimidation came a month after Amazon announced its "climate pledge." The timing of that pledge, said the group, was noteworthy given that it came a day before some Amazon workers were to walk off the job and take part in the September 20 Global Climate Strike.

Also in September—just a day after the workers had announced they were planning to take part in the climate strike—the company updated its communications policy, the workers added.

"This policy change has nothing to do with sharing confidential company information," Amazon Employees for Climate Justice said in a Twitter thread Thursday. This "change was made to explicitly forbid employees from speaking out about publicly available information, such as Amazon's partnerships with fossil fuel companies or the funding of lobbyists and think tanks who publicly deny climate change and/or actively work to suppress climate change legislation."

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The thread encouraged others to pressure Bezos to do more to be a climate leader.

"How will the world remember Jeff Bezos in the era of climate emergency?" the group asked. "Will he use his immense economic power to help, or not? Please tell @Amazon and @JeffBezos: Our world is on fire & desperately needs climate leadership. Stop silencing employees who are sounding the alarm."

In addition to Greenpeace, authors and activists Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein were among those adding social media pressure on Bezos.

"The climate crisis is already affecting all of us," said Bobby Gordon, a finance manager at Amazon. "We cannot confront this monumental problem, let alone avert catastrophic damage to our planet and society, if we are not allowed to speak up about it."

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