- Tim Bray, the senior Amazon engineer who resigned dramatically from the company in May, spoke to a union conference of Amazon workers on Thursday.
- Bray said there is an imbalance of power between Amazon and its warehouse workers, and the best ways to address this are through worker organising. He also proposed breaking up the company.
- “Why on earth should an online retailer, a cloud computing company, a smart speaker company, an organic supermarket company, and a video production company all be conglomerated into one corporate entity controlled by one person?” said Bray
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Tim Bray, the senior Amazon engineer who resigned in protest in May over the company firing internal critics, on Thursday said the company should be broken up.
Bray was speaking during a Zoom meeting organised by the Global Amazon Union Alliance, a multinational group of workers’ unions from across 20 countries. The meeting was attended by Amazon warehouse workers, engineers, organisers, and media outlets including Business Insider.
During his speech, Bray condemned the imbalance of power between Amazon’s management and its warehouse workers. Many of Amazon’s fulfillment centre workers are employed as contractors and part-time workers, rather than full-time employees with substantial pay and perks. Bray said Amazon’s much-praised business model and consumer experience came at the expense of these more precarious workers.
“They pay the cost because, in the 21st-century economy, they have very little power,” Bray told attendees. “Any solution has to start with remediating that power imbalance. Obvious ways forward include union organisation and political action to improve the legal and regulatory framework.”
Bray said meaningful political action would involve breaking up Amazon’s various businesses, thereby reducing what he described as its monopoly power.
“Why on earth should an online retailer, a cloud computing company, a smart speaker company, an organic supermarket company, and a video production company all be conglomerated into one corporate entity controlled by one person?” he said. He said the US will need “aggressive antitrust legislation to pry these operations apart.”
Bray pointed in particular to Amazon’s cloud computing arm AWS, which continues to make up the bulk of Amazon’s operating profit.
In the first three months of 2020, AWS reported $US3 billion in operating profit, accounting for 77% of Amazon’s total operating profit.
“In effect cloud computing is providing the resources that Amazon is using to crush whole sectors of the retail economy. In what sane universe is this a good idea?” Bray said.
“AWS should be an independent company that reports profits and pays taxes on its profits,” said Bray.
He said tech is monopolized by Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google in general. “If you look at the goods and services those companies provide to the world, I think that it’s absurd it’s only five companies doing that, it should be a hundred companies doing that.”
Tim Bray isn’t the only voice calling for antitrust scrutiny of Amazon.
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday the European Commission is planning to file charges against Amazon over the way the company treats third-party sellers on its marketplace platform. At issue is the way Amazon operates both as a marketplace for these sellers, as well as a direct seller itself.