Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos on Wednesday addressed a string of firings of activist employees at his company, following heavy criticism of the terminations, including by a group of US senators.
“We didn’t fire anyone for speaking out about working conditions,” Bezos said during Amazon’s virtual shareholder meeting Wednesday as part of a Q&A portion. “We support every employee’s right to criticize their employers working conditions, but that also doesn’t mean that they’re allowed to not follow internal policies. But for sure your rights to protest working conditions, we take that super seriously and we have no problem with that at all.”
Bezos’ comments come after his company fired six employees this year who were publicly criticizing Amazon. After getting fired, several of these activist employees, including warehouse worker Christian Smalls and tech employee Maren Costa, have become leading voices in a growing movement to push for improved working conditions at Amazon warehouses.
Amazon had often said these workers were fired for violations of different internal protocols and not for their activism. Smalls, for instance, was fired for violating a company-mandated quarantine. Costa was fired for using company resources to solicit fellow employees after she invited other workers to a virtual meeting about warehouse conditions. Still, nine US senators raised concerns about these terminations, writing a letter to Bezos this month asking for more information about the firings.
Costa spoke at the shareholder meeting Wednesday in a prerecorded statement to introduce one of the 12 shareholder proposals during the meeting. She called out the firings and asked Amazon to do more to curb climate change. She had been a leader of the activist group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice prior to her termination.