Hacker News Re-Imagined

Bye, Amazon

  • 3816 points
  • 1 year ago

  • @grey-area
  • Created a post

Bye, Amazon


@flyinbryan125 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

You would think the (ex)VP from amazon could get a decent website together that is legible on a mobile device... He must have been the one keeping the archaic layout on the amazon website from the early 2000s.

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@softwarejosh 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

big ass respect for this person, of course its anecdotal, thats all the evidence you will ever get. you want a professional investigation done on these guys you are dreaming. this person saw evil, no matter how much, and took their side.

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@ableal 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙



@rosywoozlechan 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

If conscientious people leave Amazon it will result in Amazon being less conscientious, but it will probably not result in Amazon being any less powerful or dominant.

I also think Amazon a right to expect its employees to abide by its rules. Individuals have a right to organize and to protest, even when they're supposed to be at work, but companies have a right to want to discontinue their business relationship, that is fire, their employees, especially if they're not working when they're supposed to.

Ultimately the employees made the mistake of organizing and being loud before they had the critical mass to have the leverage needed, and they outed their organization leadership.

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@darksaints 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Just want to point out this:

>Amazon Web Services (the “Cloud Computing” arm of the company), where I worked, is a different story. It treats its workers humanely, strives for work/life balance, struggles to move the diversity needle (and mostly fails, but so does everyone else), and is by and large an ethical organization. I genuinely admire its leadership.

Having worked there, I 100% agree with this statement. I'd go so far as to say that the blame for this toxic and intolerable atmosphere lies with a single person who is not Jeff Bezos. His name is Dave Clark.

When I was in his org, I regularly interacted with FC General Managers, Ops Managers, and Area Managers. There was a humorous nickname that quite a few called him behind his back, and I think it fits him perfectly. It was Dave Mussolini. Not so much a nazi in his evil, but rather someone who desired and cultivated and enforced a pure cult of personality for his own personal ego gratification and career advancement. Amazon's "Disagree And Commit" leadership principle gets thrown out in his org and becomes "Disagree amongst yourselves if you want, but never ever disagree with me, never do anything that I do not approve of, and kiss my ass any time you are around me". Subsequently, all of his subordinates adopt the same attitude, and becomes a culture of complete subservience to your master, no questions asked.

I have personally witnessed people get fired within 10 minutes of sending out an email making a suggested path that Dave Clark had already decided. The email came out, Dave Clark walked into his managers office with an HR rep, and literally within 10 minutes they were packing their things and saying goodbye.

I have been in an elevator which opened up to him and his EA, and instead of getting in and going to his floor, he told us we needed to step out of the elevator and get a different elevator because he needed to talk confidentially. He couldn't wait to get to his office, he had to make one of his lemmings take the long way to accommodate 10 seconds of his time.

The Kiva acquisition was something he pushed for extensively. They weren't even Kiva customers at the time, he just jumped the gun and bought the company. It turned out that Kiva's productivity improvements didn't scale very well at Amazon's level. They really worked well for much smaller companies, but in large FCs, their optimization and routing algorithms hit NP Complete complexity bottlenecks, resulting in much lower productivity than had been advertised to them. But instead of taking the blame for his lack of due diligence, he created a hellfire and damnation environment, regularly storming into their offices and throwing Steve Jobs level temper tantrums. He made the entire place so toxic that half (not exaggerating) of the Kiva engineers that were acquired had left the company before their very lucrative aquisition stock grants could vest. We're talking hundreds of engineers who would rather give up hundreds of thousands of dollars than deal with Dave Clark (Mussolini) for one more minute.

Dave Clark is a toxic asset. He is failing at his job. Fulfillment costs are skyrocketing, inventory turns are tanking, and profitability of the retail division is at an all time low, despite all time high revenues. He has burned through staffing so heavily that they have had to abandon entire fulfillment centers because there aren't enough people in these small blue collar towns that are eligible to work for Amazon anymore because they've all been fired. He is a constant PR nightmare for the company. I have no fucking clue why Jeff Bezos hasn't fired him yet.

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@fataliss 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

I wish there was of some sort of association or union for people in the Software industry. While we are typically much better treated than basically every single other type of worker out there, we lack the assurance of protection when it comes to challenging our employers. In a country where your healthcare, your retirement and possibly your immigration status are tied to your employment, how can one feel confident that sticking to their convictions like you did will not cost them and their family a cost so great that they cannot bear it. I would like for Software and more generally tech workers of all trade to be able to say NO or ENOUGH, when working for a company that steals tips, coerces workers into unfavorable situation or plainly disrespects human rights. I dream of a world where workers can rely on something having their back when making the right decision.

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@untog 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Perhaps a little off topic but I notice that despite the huge number of upvotes, this thread is ranked below other stories with far fewer points from around the same time.

Are people flagging this story? It would be interesting to be able to see the number of flags a thread attracts on Hacker News.

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@stupidcar 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

> At the end of the day, it’s all about power balances. The warehouse workers are weak and getting weaker...

Whenever I speak to someone working in a "low-skilled" job, I'm always astonished and embarrassed by how different their work environment sounds to the kind of offices I work in. There seems to be a consistent theme of employees being treated with suspicion, condescension and outright hostility.

This gets to the heart of the idea of "privilege", and why it can be so difficult to see yourself as privileged. Because it often involves nothing more than being given a basic level of trust and respect that, once you have them, can seem like a bare minimum, not something that you would need to fight for.

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@gigatexal 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Mad respect for this guy.

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@fortran77 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

As an Amazon customer, I've gone from admiring the company to distrusting them. I can't trust products I buy from them; this lack of care is a problem with the very fabric of the organization.

One nit to pick: "Climate Change" groups, and the like should keep their focus narrow. I have trouble getting behind many groups because they seem to need to have a position on every "progressive" issue. The Climate Change group should have stuck to climate change, and another employee action group created to make sure the needs of all the Amazon employees across the company are being taken seriously.

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@kbash9 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

> What about AWS? · Amazon Web Services (the “Cloud Computing” arm of the company), where I worked, is a different story. It treats its workers humanely, strives for work/life balance, struggles to move the diversity needle (and mostly fails, but so does everyone else), and is by and large an ethical organization.

As a former employee of AWS, I can vouch for this. AWS and Amazon.com should be looked at two totally different entities in terms of employee experience.

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@mettamage 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

So if I get this right, now a VP will be hired that will approve of these things?

I wonder if there'd have been utility to attempt to change the system from the inside out.

I guess there wouldn't be. Then this would be the only option left.

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@mercury_craze 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Amazon is a great evil.

It will not be remembered as a company that has had been a positive influence on the world but as a company that has treated its employees (both hourly and salaried) with contempt, driven independent stores out of business and refused to play on a level playing field both through its shady business practices or its refusal to pay tax.

Well done to Tim Bray for acting according to his conscience. Hopefully this sets an example to other Amazon employees and other tech workers working in similarly morally compromised organisations.

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@moneymoney 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙



@zimpenfish 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Whilst this is laudable and it would be great if more people stood up for principles, it does rather imply he was ok with every other shady practice Amazon was involved in for the previous 5 years.

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@alkibiades 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

if he’s so against capitalism he should donate his considerable net worth to amazon workers instead of pointless virtue signaling.

but somehow think that won’t happen :)

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@dirtydroog 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

> The victims weren’t abstract entities but real people; here are some of their names: CB, GB, MC, EC, BM, and CS.

> I’m sure it’s a coincidence that every one of them is a person of color, a woman, or both. Right?

I hope this guy got permission from these people to post their names on a public forum. Also, there's really nothing in those names to tell if someone is a PoC or not. At least one of those names is both a male and female name.

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@xenocyon 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

My personal snapping point as a consumer occurred several years ago, over something that's definitely not anecdotal:

When Amazon employees are frisked at the end of their shift (which is a practice that applies to at least some warehouses), they are not paid for the time they spend waiting in line to be frisked. This is not an anecdote; indeed Amazon fought and won a court case insisting that it has the right to not compensate employees for this time. (See https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-court-amazon-com/u-s-...)

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@te_chris 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Genuinely inspiring. Made me realise how long it's been since someone high up in tech actually took a stand and a risk and defended their principles publically. Thank you and know that your actions are meaningful and appreciated.

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@lazyjones 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Somewhat understandable reaction, but wise? As a VP you should have some influence at Amazon. Even if not, you'd still do more good by speaking out about it internally instead of resigning, thereby harming mostly yourself and apart from HN drama having little effect on the problem. Unless the real problem is that there is no actual reasonable argument against Amazon's actions because the danger is exaggerated and all precautions have been taken, in which case the doubts could have been resolved internally as well... But, his money, his consciousness, his emotions, his decision.

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@_curious_ 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

"That done, remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised. So I resigned."

Hope to see more individuals in tech standing up for what they believe to be right, willing to make sacrifices or even walk away if needed, and ultimately tell their story publicly. This is how you do it!

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@tracker1 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

This is something I deeply respect. To often it feels like proper are trying to burn the world down from the inside. Such as with some of the struggling media companies.

And while I won't speak to the two that the author cites as their impetus for action, I absolutely respect someone who quits over a moral stance, and writes an exit statement.

Not everyone needs to quit and leave to speak out. There's a lot of gray. If just prefer to see sane actions and reactions in general.

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@alexashka 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

'Poor people are being treated poorly, I'm rich and can get a job by walking across the street. Capitalism is bad blah blah blah.'

Quality content.

People born with a silver spoon in their mouth are so predictably 'shocked' by how the rest of the world functions. People are mistreated? People are fired? There is injustice in the world? Oh my, I'm going to blog about it!

Have you heard of Buddha? You're in that stage of discovering old age, sickness and death by wandering outside your golden palace walls out into the streets.

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@querez 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

> I’m sure it’s a coincidence that every one of them is a person of color, a woman, or both. Right?

This part of the article jumped at me -- If this is true, then I'd have to say "yes, coincidence". No company (let alone one as large as Amazon) would be that stupid in 2020.

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@shaan1 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Made money, now is the ideal time to quit :-) Similar to the google engineers who quit after working for 10 to 15 years.

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@tom_mellior 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

> Fast-forward to the Covid-19 era. Stories surfaced of unrest in Amazon warehouses, workers raising alarms about being uninformed, unprotected, and frightened. Official statements claimed every possible safety precaution was being taken. Then a worker organizing for better safety conditions was fired, and brutally insensitive remarks appeared in leaked executive meeting notes where the focus was on defending Amazon “talking points”.

Sorry, but none of this is new in "the Covid-19 era". There is a long Wikipedia page dedicated to criticism of Amazon detailing decades of criticism of how Amazon treats its workers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Amazon

Better of Tim to exit late than never, but let's not pretend that until recent firings and this blog post we all thought that Amazon was a nice and cuddly company. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Bray says he started there in December 2014. He must have known at that point what he was getting into. For reference, here's the state of the criticism page at that time: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Criticism_of_Amaz...

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@runawaybottle 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

I often have this discussion with a friend about how to figure out your place in a company.

It is very important to figure out what class you belong to in a company. Some try to boil this down to ‘cost-centers’, but it isn’t always that simple.

Warehouse workers are second class citizens at Amazon. This can be true for a developer in certain environments, it can be true for designers, etc.

I’ve worked at places where developers are second class citizens compared to Project/Product management, and then I’ve seen where designers are second class citizens to developers. It can be even more granular where frontend is second class to backend, or vice versa.

However you figure it out, if you find out you are a second class citizen there, you have to move on, as your potential is capped by the business priorities/culture/structure. It’s never a good fit.

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@xrd 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

I've read a few comments here that Tim Bray would be better off staying at Amazon to make change from within.

This morning I attempted to renew a domain at a GoDaddy subsidiary, and as I scrolled down to look for the contact information I saw that GoDaddy appears to be registered in the Cayman Islands.

I'm genuinely curious (I mean that) to ask if the same question is asked of companies that go offshore. Isn't this all about tax evasion? And, shouldn't they be asked to fight for change from within in the same way?

I honestly think many people on HN would support overhauling our tax code alongside a corporation with deep pockets. So why not?

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@cromantic 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

I applaud this move from Tim. It takes gumption to walk away from a VP-level FAANG salary for anything, especially personal morals. I have only one small thing to add as an ex-Amazon employee:

>Amazon Web Services (the “Cloud Computing” arm of the company), where I worked, is a different story. It treats its workers humanely, strives for work/life balance, struggles to move the diversity needle (and mostly fails, but so does everyone else), and is by and large an ethical organization. I genuinely admire its leadership.

This was not and (as far as I keep in contact with old coworkers) is not the case for people working in the data centers operations department. I imagine that area shares similarities with the average warehouse environment. There is a quick turnover (a year on average), a dependence on contracted workers, demanding physical labor, untrustworthy managers, and most of all, the dehumanizing metrics. I remember most of us had dreams to transition to cloud support and get away from the lonely and stressful life as a data center tech.

I think the only people feeling okay at Amazon are corporate and/or AWS software engineers. The rest are feeling the full effects of Amazon's corporate culture. Which is to say, the full rod of Bezos' sadistic corporate philosophy.

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@emilfihlman 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

>I’m sure it’s a coincidence that every one of them is a person of color, a woman, or both. Right?

And at that point the author lost my respect. Sad, since otherwise he's making good points with a lot of merit, but if he's making that "argument" I don't even want to know what more vocal "activists" were saying.

This comes down purely to cost and slow moving rock on the Amazon side.

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@lorec0re 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

You're a good human!

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@pleddy 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙



@myroon5 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

"From: James Gosling (May 04 2020, at 10:36)

Great letter. I struggle with the contradictions every day."

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@econcon 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

I also quit tech, so I don't really respect the people who get job at these companies, they are basically modern day enabler for bad things that happen at these companies. Companies aren't nothing without their employees helping them do the things and that unfortunately includes the bad things.

I now run my own business and pay everyone fairly and treat everyone well.

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@wtmt 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

I appreciate the candid statement he has made about one of the things that ails Amazon's leadership.

> Only that’s not just Amazon, it’s how 21st-century capitalism is done.

I wonder if there's any future opportunity for him in the existing set of well known names or large enough companies. I can't think of any widely known tech company that doesn't do "21st-century capitalism" (treating people as disposable cogs). Seems like getting into some non-profit that also has a decent track record may be the way to go for him.

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@youeseh 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

People who need to job to make ends meet usually have a lot more to lose. This very quickly creates an environment where there are real imbalances. The perception of these real imbalances can be even greater if there's a breakdown in trust / communication.

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@asdf21 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

It's crazy how stuff like this keeps coming out, but Amazon's stock just keeps going up..

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@ssklash 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

I'm shocked that so many bright, talented engineers go to work for Companies like Google and Amazon and Facebook. While I'm glad some see the light about the real mission of these companies (it's not about "connecting people", "providing delightful customer experiences", "doing no evil" or any of that BS) and ultimately quit, but what concerns me is how so many clearly incredibly bright and talented people are able to ignore so many red flags and go to work for these companies. Google and Facebook are about acquiring personal data to sell ads, that's it! You're not adding value, no matter what interesting, complicated, bleeding edge, world-class problems you're solving. The world is worse off for all of it, and you're helping.

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@chanmad29 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Amazon deserves this criticism but I think there is nothing to single them out. Most for-profit companies would behave in a similar fashion unless there is a competition for these workers that will force Amazon to treat them better. Since Amazon is operating in virtual monopoly here, there is no incentive for them to behave differently unless there are stronger laws such as minimum wage etc..

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@x3blah 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙



@mcguire 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Is there any irony to be found in the fact that, reading the linked article (https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/5dm8bx/leaked-amazon-memo...), I'm seeing 4 copies of the ad for the Audible original "Escape from Virtual Island"?

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@simonebrunozzi 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

> I quit in dismay at Amazon firing whistleblowers

Assuming this is the real true reason (I would trust Tim, but you never know, so just being explicit here), it takes huge balls to do something like this.

The economic loss has to be somewhat taken in relation to your total wealth (e.g. if you lose $1M by quitting but you already have $10M+ in the bank, it's not as hard as if you had zero in the bank), but still... Very few people would have the courage to walk away from big sums of money purely on principle.

Again, assuming this is all true, I admire Tim for this move, and plaude him. I had my issues with Amazon when I was there (2008-2014), some of them made me uncomfortable, but I would have never had the courage to walk away.

It also potentially damages Tim's ability to get hired in the future, as some other large organization might not like his behavior with Amazon and be reluctant to bring him on board. At the same time, hopefully there are smaller startups that want exactly this type of courage and rectitude and will hire him for his talents.

Good luck, Tim.

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@rdsubhas 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

> At the end of the day, it’s all about power balances. The warehouse workers are weak and getting weaker

More and more victims of trickle down economics.

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@adreamingsoul 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

I'm still feeling blue from leaving AWS back in mid-2019. I worked with a talented team, had an amazing manager, and overall miss everyone all the way up to the VP of the org.

Articulating why I left has not been easy, but Mr. Bray touches on some of the issues that resonate with me.

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@thruwawy32535 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

This is one of the most up-voted posts on this site, and the post itself is a mere 20hrs old. Yet it's been bounced from the front page. The bias of the HN mods really showing itself today.

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@gowld 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Is he donating all the excess money Amazon paid him to the workers or unions?

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@_pmf_ 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Impressive.

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@techntoke 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Will Jeff Barr do the right thing too?

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@cmurf 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

It's way past time for an Amazon boycott. This blog post makes the case without saying the word. But even here on HN there's a long history of complaints about fraud on Amazon: fake reviews, fake products, and little to no action by Amazon. And they show they have the power to take corrective action when something happens they don't actually like, while standing idly by when they don't care. The actions, and lack thereof, are what matter.

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@gadders 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

As the saying goes "A principle isn't a principle unless it costs you money."

Fair play to him for standing up for what he believes.

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@flavmartins 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

While I don’t disagree with the decision to step down from the organization, I’m always concerned that in the long run, if committed, principled individuals just leave the organization, who will be left to stand up for those who don’t have that option.

The Amazon warehouse workers certainly don’t have the power in the organization. And they don’t have the representation at the highest management levels of the organization. So if the ones that do in the VP and Director roles leave, who will standup for them?

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@tinyhouse 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

|"May 1st was my last day as a VP and Distinguished Engineer at Amazon Web Services, after FIVE years and five months of rewarding fun"

5.5 years means more than fully vested and probably time for a change anyway...

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@dandare 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

> Only that’s not just Amazon, it’s how 21st-century capitalism is done.

I am really tired of all these off-hand attacks on capitalism. Capitalism is an economic system. It is characterized by private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. If you prefer a centralized or shared economy, that is fine, although I was born in a communist country and I bet you have no idea what you wish for.

Capitalism is not responsible for some local injustice, corruption, or mistreatment of workers. If you think there is no corruption in a dictatorship or that communism is a worker paradise you are grossly misinformed. Europe runs on capitalism too, but Europe also has strong worker protections and ethical norms.

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@red_admiral 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

This is what being a capital-A Ally looks like. I take my hat off to you, sir.

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@akerro 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Let's not forget to link the FACE of Amazon https://sites.google.com/site/thefaceofamazon/

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@LatteLazy 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

I think a lot of the reason people hate on Amazon is just bad PR. Plenty of other companies are just as bad, or worse. Walmart has been a shit hole long before Amazon even existed and its worse than amazon. But Amazon steadfastly refuse to pretend they care. Bezos isn't constantly paying people to lie and pretend Amazon is a family and its workers are deeply valued.

Perversely, I actually think that's more honest and more likely to bring about changes to actually help workers...

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@thanksforfish 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

> Any plausible solution has to start with increasing their collective strength.

Legislation or unionization. Any other routes?

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@elwell 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Site fails to load. Hosted by AWS? puts on tin foil hat

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@telaelit 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Finally someone who actually cares about his workers. I wish more higher ups cared this much about us

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@alex_young 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

I really wish there was a stand-alone cloud provider to work with.

AWS is a part of this unethical beast, GCP is a side project of a huge advertising company, Azure is under the wing of a major monopolist.

I guess there is Linode, but their services are more of a traditional VPS than a cloud host.

It's kind of crazy that most of the net income of Amazon comes from this business, but we've accepted that a stand alone cloud business won't work for some reason.

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@cek 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

tbray.org has been /.'d (is that still a thing?).

Either that, or the strongly worded anti-defamation language found in Amazon's employment agreement has come into play, forcing it to be shutdown.

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@uoaei 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Big props to Tim Bray. I think I speak for everyone when I say I'm not sure I would have been able to make the same step if I were in that position. Really impressed by the fortitude of his psyche and ethical framework. It doesn't sound like this decision was taken lightly.

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@miked85 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

> I’m sure it’s a coincidence that every one of them is a person of color, a woman, or both. Right?

Including this bit is interesting. So he is accusing Amazon of being both sexist and racist in addition to treating workers poorly.

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@paganel 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

The right thing to do.

I've never met Tim and I will probably never meet him, I only know that he was one of first programmers/computer people whose blog I started reading back when I got into programming (more than 15 years ago, closer to 20) and as such one could say that I looked up to him. I'm glad that I chose the right person to "look up to".

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@acdha 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Kudos to Tim for not being blinded by the money. A whole lot of people are going to wish they’d had his courage when the history of this era is being written and our descendants are wondering why more people didn’t act.

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@kjgkjhfkjf 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

I don't mean to rag specifically on Tim here, but most posts like this one probably should not be taken entirely at face value. My guess is that he left Amazon mostly for other more mundane reasons, and he used the well-known issues with how Amazon treat their workers as a means to exit in a blaze of righteous glory.

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@tannhaeuser 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Looking forward to what tbray is on to next. He has co-authored W3C's original XML spec and the RFC spec for JSON while at Google. Now leaving AWS on matters of principle, he could just be the kind of person who can turn things around and being trusted by enough people to get behind new "digital humanism" initiatives in a post-cloud era, like cross-cloud computing/service standards, and digital media/privacy/advertising rights and standards in an increasingly monopolistic market.

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@futureproofd 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Site is down, here's the image: http://archive.md/XcnJv

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@dilandau 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

I am surprised to see a high-profile software engineer take this step. It seems from the post that his motivation was mostly in protest to the company's efforts to shut-down any form of worker organization.

It's these strange ways that COVID is changing our economy that make me very bearish long-term on the economy. Businesses around here can reopen legally but many are choosing to stay closed. The customers aren't back yet and they can't pay their regular staff. If they reopen, the staff can also no longer collect the massive unemployment benefits.

It's a fucking shitstorm and it's hitting the highly-paid as well, I guess.

Good luck to OP.

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@odysseus 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

It's interesting that Mr. Bray is declining to post comments on his site that are even slightly constructively critical of some of the things he's advocating for in this post. (Can anyone find a non-congratulatory or even slightly critical comment below his post on his site? Did I miss one?)

He has every right to filter negative comments, but it makes me not want to read his site further if all he does is post non-contrary opinions.

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@kerng 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Bezos in front of congress just got a lot more interesting. This is something that they will likely spend a lot of time on.

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@caleb-allen 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

I'm having issues with this url, here is a link from archive.org:

https://web.archive.org/web/20200504093003/https://www.tbray...

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@bawana 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Is amazon evil because it's big or because they compete with more evil abroad?

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@MrStonedOne 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

tbray.org does not resolve from within amazon's work vpn.

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@jsnell 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Does anyone know what the "laughable justifications" for the firings were?

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@herostratus101 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Good for Amazon for not caving to activist pressure. Google's past fecklessness in this domain has come to haunt it.

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@simonhfrost 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

> It’s that Amazon treats the humans in the warehouses as fungible units of pick-and-pack potential. Only that’s not just Amazon, it’s how 21st-century capitalism is done.

Stung me the most. Capitalism seems to have such an increasingly firm grip on the world that I'm starting to think the only way out is from some drastic worldwide event (Corona?).

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@jbj 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙



@throwawayfortb 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Tim is a really nice and likable person. That said, I'm really disappointed in his one sided take here. Amazon did not fire these people without cause. They fired them because they violated company policies. These employees were using company time and resources to push personal political agendas that have no place at work. They were rightfully fired, and a huge number of Amazon employees are thankful they are gone. There is a big silent majority, probably at all major tech companies, that is left voiceless because the progressive left is vocal and aggressively shouts down anyone who is even slightly to the right of their own views. At Amazon, most of us seek a professional workplace where employees are working towards the common goal of helping customers. These employees that Tim is standing up for were the opposite of that, distracting everyone with loud activism and probably not focusing on their own jobs either.

To provide a counter to Tim's account: Chris Smalls was told to quarantine himself and not come to the work site because he was in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 (https://thehill.com/regulation/labor/490805-fired-amazon-str...). He came to the site anyways to protest. Why wouldn't he get fired for putting others at risk? People who think this firing was malicious are speculating. If this was a topic that Hacker News readers had a different group perspective on, they would call it a conspiracy theory. Someone would surely be quoting Hanlon's Razor by now.

Maren Costa and Emily Cunningham were the most visible ringleaders of activists pretending to be employees. They clearly were not doing their job as well as they could, because they had time enough to engage in lengthy political discussions on mailing lists during the workday. They were also repeatedly disrupting everyone else's work. They, and others from their group, would spam hundreds of company mailing lists repeatedly. They would send long political rants, links to activist events, and even solicit employee information. It was very over the top, and pleas from list moderators to stop spamming were ignored or met with baseless accusations of racism (or another -ism). That reaction, to shout down opposing views with absurd justifications, is the mental gymnastics of intersectionality at work. It's the unfortunate culture of intolerance that this aggressive flavor of progressive activism has taken on in workplaces like Google, Facebook, and Amazon.

I'm also dismayed at the public reaction to these events. For some reason, the general public simply craves stories attacking winners, and the same is true for Amazon. If you want to balance out the info you've been exposed to, check out Amazon's official blog on the large number of changes they've made in response to COVID-19, at https://blog.aboutamazon.com/company-news/amazons-actions-to.... Were you aware that Amazon set up a nonprofit COVID-19 supply store for healthcare and government organizations (https://business.amazon.com/en/work-with-us/healthcare/covid...)? What about Jeff Bezos's statement on the expenses relating to COVID-19 (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/amazons-ceo-tells-investor...)?

Tim Bray quitting is his personal choice. I respect that he has the right to make this choice. But he's not a hero, and the HN crowd would do well not to immediately put him on a pedestal or to take all his opinions and claims at face value. When it comes to those fired employees he is standing up for, Tim is willfully overlooking their clear abuse of Amazon's employee rules, company resources, and other employees. I don't think it's an accident that he's leaving all those details out. He may be calling Amazon a 'chickenshit', but I actually think he's the coward in this instance.

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@lmilcin 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

I don't think many people take it into account, but many companies look up to tech giants and replicate their actions.

When company the size of Amazon can get away with this kind of heavy handed employee treatment, the results are affecting many, many more people that it might seem on the surface.

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@seph-reed 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

A site that lists alternatives for Amazon in all of its subcategories:

https://threshold.us/c/cancelprime/amazon-alternatives

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@jeffrallen 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Come on, Tim. You lost me at, "cost me a million dollars".

Congrats that you did the right thing, but no one should care how much it cost you to be ethical.

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@arkanciscan 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

I don't see how quitting helps the workers he claims to care about. Many of them would probably love to have the amount of influence that a VP has. Seems disingenuous to claim that as a reason for quitting.

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@hourislate 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Completely anecdotal.

It's possible some Amazon Warehouses are run better than others. A friend who recently got a job (5 weeks ago) at one of Amazons warehouses (NJ/NYC area) has only praise for the way things are run. They take his temperature 3 times a day, provide a mask, constantly monitor social distancing, clean washrooms every hour, enforce social distancing in any break rooms, work areas, etc. He says it's never an issue with breaks, lunch, etc. He has mentioned that they encourage him to keep an eye out for other positions he might have an interest in since he is eligible (after 30 days)to apply (he has some skills that can be more useful to Amazon).

I was always under the assumption from what I have read that Amazon was a sweat shop. It seems that at least his facility is run very well.

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@jzer0cool 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

> That done, remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised. So I resigned.

You are courageous and have taken tremendous sacrifice. Although it is not much a condolence, it makes me happy to hear there are people to stand their ground for well being of others. I do not know the whole situation, but, I can hear it was against your own moral / core values. And I feel you are a great leader for what I believe, you are protecting, those around you. And your leaders have failed which resulted in this outcome.

I wonder how many people have been in similar situation and decided to leave a job (or an excuse, for one). Reminds me of Nasa's launch when there were safety concerns (e.g. "On January 28, 1986, as the Space Shuttle Challenger broke up over the Atlantic Ocean 73 seconds into its flight, Allan McDonald looked on in shock -- despite the fact that the night before, he had refused to sign the launch recommendation over safety concern ..." ) -- as well other situations which may rise from privacy concerns, security concerns, etc, and with pushbacks with "Do you have proof? Have data to support? Is it reproducible? ...). Today, I wonder with COVID-19 if there are pressures to release Test Kits / vaccines to market before it is ready or skipping of any processes necessarily as another example.

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@paulintrognon 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙



@sumfoni 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

I don't get it.

What does he win doing that? One publicity stunt. Thats it

He could have done much more inside Amazon and get fired later.

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@tsegratis 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Can we also do something ourselves?

AWS spending and consumers turning a blind eye enables such issues to arise

These things are fueled not just by desire for profit, but also our own materialistic focus. If we buy into the latest and greatest products, rather than where they came from, then to some extent isn't it we who have enabled these rights abuses in various countries and companies, to support our own appetites?

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@treve 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Nice to see someone standing up. I have a hard time understanding how developers with options to move to different companies ethically justify working for companies like Amazon, Facebook, Oracle or Walmart.

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@Maakuth 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

His page seems to be melting under HN effect (was: Slashdot effect), luckily IA seems to have a copy: https://web.archive.org/web/20200504111506/https://www.tbray...

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@therealdrag0 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Splitting AWS off from Amazon Markets is one split-up I would support the government doing. Without the cash-cow, it might reduce Amazon Markets domination, and allow more competitive alternatives.

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@synecdoche 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

How does resigning better serve the cause than conscientious refusal to take part in despisable activities and get fired instead?

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@mmaunder 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Very difficult to put emotion aside when thinking about these things. I expect to be crucified for even asking this question because the audience here has a bias towards supporting activism. But oh well here goes:

If Amazon condone and even enable employee activism, what bad things could that enable? I don’t mean unions. I mean a group of say 20 employees trying to bring about a change they truly believe in.

Amazon has over 500,000 employees. Think of the number of edge cases. You agree with these good folks that were fired. But what about carrying guns to work? Conservative or liberal issues if you’re the other side of the table?

That employee base is a small city. Is every warehouse a town square with freedom to assemble? Every office?

Fighting the good fight is often necessary. But it’s also a seductive idea until it’s not your fight and disrupting your day - or worse, something you vehemently disagree with and is causing you distress.

Is there another side to this argument?

(Edit for spelling)

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@TLightful 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

f.uc!3k y(o.!u.

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@mcantelon 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Reports of shitty working conditions aren't exactly a new thing in Amazon warehouses.

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@alexpetralia 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

This article now hit the front page of the Financial Times: https://www.ft.com/content/ea6946d8-532e-4724-ada7-eebb887c8...

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@apexkid 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Amazon is every other on fire in media for poor working conditions but they don't care because stock buyers of Amazon don't care. They will continue to invest as long as their wealth grows. This is what true capitalism is.

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@dcgudeman 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

How many "Amazon VP"s are there, 1000? Whenever I see stories like this the majority of the time the position of the individual is embellished to make the act seem more dramatic.

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@Havoc 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

>humans in the warehouses as fungible units of pick-and-pack potential. Only that’s not just Amazon, it’s how 21st-century capitalism is done.

That's the part that scares me - it's not just Amazon. Automation hasn't even kicked off properly and we've already got humans being replaceable at best

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@lftherios 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

We need more Tims in the tech world.

From a place for renegades, the valley has quickly become a safe place for "yes men", that all they do is to obey to their corporate overlords.

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@sbussard 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

> Only that’s not just Amazon, it’s how 21st-century capitalism is done

This type of business practice is a big threat to capitalism. Bottom-line thinking is over-optimization w.r.t. to revenue that doesn’t even consider those who generate the revenue. It’s a local maximum that makes crummy business people look smarter than they are. Conscientious capitalism is not a socialist concept, it’s a human concept. If the leaders have no empathy, people will leave, revenue will go down.

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@gnicholas 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

> What with big-tech salaries and share vestings, this will probably cost me over a million (pre-tax) dollars

...

> The average pay [in his group, AWS] is very high, and anyone who’s unhappy can walk across the street and get another job paying the same or better.

Not sure how to square these two statements. Is the lost money all in stock vesting? If so, why bother mentioning the salary? If not, how does that fit with his claim about AWSers being so readily employable?

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@jillesvangurp 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

It's a wake up call, or at least an attempt at that, for the likes of Amazon that if they are looking to have reputable people, like Tim Bray, associate themselves and their name with you, there are certain standards that have to be met.

Amazon, MS, Google, Apple, etc. rank among the most wealthy companies in the world and they've each had to deal with internal pressures where their employees voiced concerns about certain things or where there was some kind of whistle blower situation. And they each dealt with it in their own ways.

IMHO firing whistle blowers is the kind of action that should be called out as very negative and not something to be apologetic about.

So, I admire what Tim Bray is doing here and fully understand that he's having a hard time justifying working for what he's diplomatically not quite calling out as aholes; though the undertone is quite clear.

Of course as he is pointing out, he's in a position where he can afford to do so financially. But then, being able to and actually doing are two things and he's showing some back bone here by 1) walking away and taking a hit financially, and 2) writing about it in the hope that leadership steps up and acts to correct the situation: compensate individuals affected, offer to rehire them, and discipline executives involved in pushing this through. Unlikely to happen, but one can hope for someone with a backbone stepping up. It would be the right thing to do. At the minimum, they've just been exposed for what they are and that might have consequences elsewhere for them.

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@sneak 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

> What about AWS? · Amazon Web Services (the “Cloud Computing” arm of the company), where I worked, is a different story. It treats its workers humanely, strives for work/life balance, struggles to move the diversity needle (and mostly fails, but so does everyone else), and is by and large an ethical organization.

I find it very difficult to reconcile this statement with the fact that AWS provides services to the US military to help them perpetrate mass murder more effectively and directly vends to the suborganization inside the US government that operates concentration camps for children. It's fallen out of the news cycle, but this is still happening today, and AWS is still accepting money to help them carry out their crimes.

https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/publicsector/training-the-warfi...

https://www.govexec.com/sponsor-content/enabling-the-warfigh...

https://www.technologyreview.com/2018/10/22/139639/amazon-is...

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/27/us/immigrant-children-sex...

These are the people AWS collaborates with. That's not ethical under any framework of ethics I've ever heard of.

It's not even like they just happen to serve the military along with all comers: they voluntarily built a special set of datacenters with racist hiring policies just to court government work:

https://aws.amazon.com/govcloud-us/

It's almost as if people have a gigantic ethical blind spot just so long as it's the state doing the mass killings and torture of children.

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@pleddy 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

I worked there in 2004. Fired for insubordination. My team was harassed by the VP of QA, he was soon also fired, just to prove that I was indeed onto something in my whistleblowing. Larry something, can't remember. One of those super two-faced goofballs.

Amazon culture then? It was sad. Workers are pawns. The dreams of the Internet startup culture dashed and dying. I was on the team w the first Infosys flood.

Amazon is a place to make money. That's it. It's a strict military hierarchy like all US corporations. No real culture of betterment for humanity. Quite the opposite. Yes, those that got and kept their options possibly doing very well. Yes, if tech is what you live for, yippee! A better future for all of humanity: strong "no!". Stormtroopers and low flying helicoptors for any that dare organize.

Didn't you see the HR video where a plastic Jeff spews all the corporate lies and BS? Made me sick back when. I was an idealist. You were probably spared the worst and protected, given the humanist version on the surface.

There's a culture of trying to get rid of people after a few years. Not many make it over the 3-5 years mark, right? Policy of "fire the bottom 10%" thing every year, so trump up some lies to have excuses.

Anyways, better you got out before the rot set into your heart. No idealists there. The top guy is obviously quite extraordinary. Thanks for making a statement. Maybe something will break one day.

Whistleblowing needs to be kept alive. It's our only hope.

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@treebornfrog 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Completely anecdotal.

I went on an amazon warehouse tour in Tilbury, UK. (1).

It was a tour of everything they do, at one stage they asked the guy stowing to do a demo and he flat out refused because he had to hit his targets.

(1) Amazon UK Services Ltd. Tilbury - LCY2

London Distribution Park, Windrush Rd, Tilbury RM18 7AN https://g.co/kgs/8E4bgd

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@yalogin 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

Am curious, what happens if an engineer quit like this after writing a blog about the company, does it have a negative impact on their hirability? Do other companies not want him or does it not matter?

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@TheOtherHobbes 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

[Applause!]

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@ksec 1 year

Replying to @grey-area 🎙

I am going to ask a slightly different question relating to the problem.

How do you get another job?

Do you tell your potential employer you quit because of (your) principle? That you fundamentally disagree with your previous company? How will the new company judge you?

Now of coz if you are in the market that is chasing for talent ( like programming and tech ) this wouldn't be a much of a problem. What if you were the Amazon Warehouse Manager? Which is probably 100x more replaceable than say a software engineer?

Most business seems to operate with talent are everywhere, opportunities are scarce mentality. They would much rather they hire a class B employees than a class A activist.

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