Written by BBC
Following a devastating warehouse explosion in Vermont last weekend, the Amazon Board of Directors has passed a directive entitled “Boom Goes the Bezos” in order to address the concerns of shareholders, politicians, and the public as a whole. At the moment, no one knows for certain who or what caused the explosion, but board members speculate that worker satisfaction and tight warehouse budgets may have been part of the problem.
The resolution includes provisions for a 15-day per year leave policy, alternating weekend assignments to ensure no employees work two consecutive weekends, and a welfare task force. Additionally, the board agreed to fund a memorial service for the employees killed in the blast. Senior Vice President and CFO Brian T. Oslavsky, the author of the aforementioned employee clauses and a supporter of the memorial service, stated, “This is a comprehensive multifaceted solution to the problem at hand. [...] This directive will enable us to improve the lives of our workers, who are the backbone of our company.”
The directive hardly passed without conflict, however. Multiple members of the board raised concerns over the expenses associated with increasing employee benefits. Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary David A. Zapolsky spoke against the directive
saying, “We are under threat every single day from so many different companies. We simply cannot afford this.” He cited the slim margins Amazon is already running under. According to our sources, the board decided to strike out all clauses relating to raising the minimum wage at Amazon as a result of such pressures. Additionally, some question how much of the directive actually will improve the lives of workers.
Though the directive was championed as a worker safety and fulfillment solution, less than one-third of the final document actually pertained to employees. The rest of the directive outlined procedures for forensic analysis of the incident, lobbying authorities for a comprehensive criminal investigation, funding an increased security detail, and increasing investments in automation technology in order to phase out human workers. According to CTO Warner Vogels, “If they are robots then we can’t violate their human rights.”
The warehouse explosion comes on the heels of multiple other similar incidents, such as a plane crash in February alleged to be due to limited funding and support from Amazon. Human rights abuse allegations have been common for the shipping behemoth, and incidents over union relations have recently been in the news as well. Some on the board have raised concern over the ethics of the body in dealing with these matters. According to an anonymous source, the focus of the committee has been on minimizing the damage to the public image, not improving the lives of employees.
Director Jonathan J. Rubenstein has gone on record stating, “I was quite shocked to hear that my colleagues would be willing to resort to some measures.” According to Rubenstein, the committee proposed to force the Washington Post (a newspaper owned by Bezos) to run scandalous stories about politicians like Trump and Senator Oscasio-Cortez in order to shift the focus away from the failings of the company. Asked about the motivations of the board, Rubenstein said, “Instead of focusing on the fact that we lost 5 of our workers, they are focusing on ways to replace our workers.”