Thousands of Amazon tech workers Tuesday signed an internal petition urging the company to offer paid time off for its workforce to vote on or before Election Day.
While Amazon is the second largest employer in the country, with 1,372,000 U.S. workers including Whole Foods employees, it does not offer paid time off to participate in federal elections.
More than 1,500 Amazon tech workers added their support to the petition one hour after it was launched internally Tuesday morning. By noon PT, the petition had reached 3,243 supporters. The call is hosted on the company’s internal ticketing system, which is used by workers to submit requests and tasks to be completed on the job, like fixing bugs found on a website. It’s also used internally as a way for employees to submit requests for changes to company policies, like benefits.
“We are less than a month away from the 2020 U.S. election. I strongly urge the company to provide the entire US employee workforce with a paid day/shift off that can be used anytime between now and Election Day on Nov 3,” the petition, hosted on the company’s ticketing system, reads.
“This additional day/shift off must be available to all employees every year.”
Employees who support the call for time off to vote are signing on by adding a “+1” to the ticket or leaving a comment of support below the petition.
Amazon spokeswoman Jaci Anderson said in an emailed statement that the company has given employees information on how to register to vote and request time off.
"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," Anderson said. "The number of hours and pay provided to employees varies by state in line with local laws."
The action was organized by the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, a group of Amazon tech workers formed in 2018 to pressure their employer to commit to reducing fossil fuel emissions. The group previously persuaded the company to reduce fossil fuel emissions in September 2019 after repeated calls from thousands of employees.
This year, the climate group expanded its focus to speaking out against working conditions for Amazon warehouse employees during the pandemic. In April, the company fired two of the group’s core organizers, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, for what Amazon described as violations against internal policies that bar workers from publicly criticizing the company. But the group has continued to mobilize.
Tuesday’s worker-led petition asking the company to grant its tech and warehouse employees paid time off to vote comes as long lines are already recorded in states that have opened early voting, with some voters in Georgia on Monday reporting they spent nearly 10 hours in line waiting to cast their ballot.
“I’m an employee in Seattle, and we’re three weeks out from Election Day, and I haven’t heard anything from Amazon about what we can do to make a plan to vote,” one Amazon tech worker and organizer with Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, told NBC News on the condition of anonymity over fears that Amazon would retaliate for speaking to the press.
Amazon’s policy differs widely from its competitors: Walmart offers up to three paid hours off to its employees to vote and participate in elections. Other American companies, such as Target, PayPal and Apple, likewise provide paid allotted time for workers to vote.
Due to the pandemic, many states anticipate fewer voting sites will be open come Nov. 3, meaning lines to vote on Election Day could be even longer than in previous years.
If Amazon decides to not grant the employee-led request for paid time off to vote, it would be “a big disappointment,” an Amazon warehouse worker in New York said on the condition of anonymity.
His co-workers are openly talking about how they don’t plan to vote because they don’t have the time on or before Election Day between work, their long commutes and family obligations.
“It troubles me that my colleagues have to choose to sacrifice between showing up for work and making a living and showing up to vote,” he said.