Maren Costa says she knew the risks of speaking up.
“Amazon has a fantastic global platform,” she says, sitting at home in Seattle, about her time at the company. That’s why she felt the need to talk about the company’s environmental footprint, and treatment of warehouse employees.
Costa and another employee, Emily Cunningham, founded “Amazon Employees for Climate Justice,” and were planning a virtual rally this month.
Then the hammer dropped.
“My 15-year career ended in about 30 seconds,” she says.
On April 15, she was brought into a virtual meeting and subsequently fired, along with Cunningham. Costa says her son was in a neighboring room and heard it all go down.
Amazon said the two employees violated external communications policies, and Costa acknowledges she was warned previously about her activism.
It did not stop her from moderating a rally last week, with multiple speakers, about the company’s current conditions. Employees at at least 74 distribution centers have tested positive for coronavirus, including a cluster in New York, and a COVID-related death in California.
The company, in a lengthy statement, has been updating their public pronouncements about worker safety. Amazon says it has distributed personal protective equipment (PPE), raised hourly wages and is giving COVID-infected employees up to two weeks paid time off.
But the firings, says Costa, have created a “chilling effect” for employees who may feel like they’re not getting enough protection at a time when the company is doing record volume.
Research shows Prime memberships increased 10% year-over-year during one week in March, and that there are now 150 million Prime members around the world.
“You know, the warehouse workers that are losing their jobs, don’t have stock,” she says.
The MLK Labor Council, as well as King County Executive Dow Constantine, and multiple King County and Seattle City Council members have called on Amazon to reinstate the fired workers.
Costa says she will continue to advocate for change, despite it all, and says she told her son, “No regrets.”