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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Thousands of Amazon employees have petitioned for paid time off to vote

The Amazon headquarters sits virtually empty on March 10, 2020 in downtown Seattle, Washington. In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Amazon recommended all employees in its Seattle office to work from home, leaving much of downtown nearly void of people.

John Moore | Getty Images

Amazon employees are signing an internal petition calling on the company to give workers time off to vote.

The petition urges Amazon to provide its entire U.S. workforce with paid time off to vote on or before election day. In the United States, Election Day takes place on Tuesday, November 3. Many states also allow voters to cast their ballots early at polling sites ahead of Election Day.

As of Tuesday evening, more than 4,000 tech employees have signed onto the petition, which was submitted via Amazon’s internal ticketing system. Employees upvoted the petition by marking “+1” or commenting below the post.

A number of U.S. companies have given their employees time off to vote, including Facebook, Apple, Uber, Twitter, Starbucks and Walmart. Amazon, with 876,000 employees worldwide as of August, is the second largest private employer in the U.S., behind Walmart.

Amazon employees who supported the petition criticized Amazon for being “below the bar on the issue” compared to other U.S. corporations, according to responses viewed by CNBC.

Employees also expressed concern that the pandemic will create further challenges for employees balancing the need to vote and report to work, pointing to long lines at polling sites and confusion around where and how to vote. Long lines and hours-long wait times have already cropped up at polling sites in states where early voting has opened, including Texas and Georgia.

“We are less than a month away from the 2020 U.S. election,” says the petition, which was previously reported by NBC News. “I strongly urge the company to provide the entire U.S. employee workforce with a paid day/shift off that can be used anytime between now and Election Day on Nov. 3. This additional paid day/shift must be available to all employees every year.”

An Amazon spokesperson told CNBC that the company lets employees ask for time off individually.

“In all 47 states with in person voting, employees that lack adequate time before or after their scheduled workday to vote, can request and be provided excused time off,” the spokesperson added. “The number of hours and pay provided to employees varies by state in line with local laws.”

The action was organized by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, an employee advocacy group that has previously called for the company to develop a comprehensive climate change plan, among other initiatives. More recently, the group has voiced support for warehouse workers who criticized Amazon’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

AECJ also scrutinized Amazon’s labor practices after two of the group’s leaders, former Amazon user experience designers Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, were fired in April. Both Cunningham and Costa said they were fired in retaliation for the continued criticism of Amazon and after supporting warehouse workers’ coronavirus safety concerns. Amazon said it fired Cunningham and Costa for “repeatedly violating internal policies.”

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