Speech from our Die-In Protest at the 2022 Amazon Pride Flag Raising Ceremony

Fellow Amazonians,

We are No Hate At Amazon, a worker-led movement united against all forms of hate at Amazon.

We are here because Amazon upper management is spreading a culture of hatred through the sale of transphobic books, promoting and profiting off content that advocates for the abuse of transgender children.

We are here because Amazon leadership is creating a hostile workplace environment for transgender employees, forcing us to take time off and, in many cases, even resign.

We are here because Amazon upper management is not equally enforcing its content policy for transphobic books. This is discrimination against transgender employees and our transgender customers.

We are here because Amazon has failed us. We acknowledge the tireless work of the workers who use Glamazon as a force for good, and who make events like today’s flag-raising possible. We believe in our fellow employees. We believe that you are on our side. You are our allies, and our dispute is not with you. Our anger is with Amazon using the raising of the Pride flag as a PR stunt. This is blatant rainbow-washing that we cannot accept when Amazon has ignored the concerns of trans workers and our allies and profits from transphobic hate content. We will not allow Amazon’s attempt at rainbow-washing sweep so much transphobic hate under the rug. This is a matter of life and death. Of respect and dignity for all humans. Trans rights are human rights.

Fellow Amazon workers, please listen to what we have to say today. We invite you to come join us. Lie down with us in our die-in. We will hand you a flag. We are not here to make you afraid. We are employees, just like you.

We believe in free speech, which we exercise here, today, right now. We believe in a free marketplace of ideas. We know that some content we will find disagreeable. But we draw a line against hate speech. We draw a line at content that aids and encourages the psychological abuse of transgender children. There is a direct line between the hateful transphobic rhetoric Amazon is profiting from, the unprecedented anti-trans legislation across the United States, and the violent and often deadly physical attacks so many of our community face. 2021 saw the most murders of transgender people in recorded history. Overwhelmingly, these victims are Black trans women and trans women of color.

The First Amendment freedom of speech includes the freedom to choose not to sell content that causes such harm. When Amazon faced backlash from conservative politicians over its decision to remove the transphobic book “When Harry Became Sally” from our store, leadership did not back down. Instead, they wrote in a letter to Congress. “We reserve the right not to sell certain content; all retailers make decisions about what selection they choose to offer, as do we. … We have chosen not to sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.”

That was the right choice. But what happened since then? What happened to Amazon being on the right side of history? Of standing with their workers against this deep injustice? Why, only a few months later, did Amazon leadership close a ticket to remove a far more egregiously transphobic book “Irreversible Damage” from the store?

Irreversible Damage, a book that openly defends and repeatedly advocates for parents to perform conversion therapy on their gender diverse youth. A book based on debunked research and subtitled “The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters”. The central thesis, indeed, the whole point of Irreversible Damage is to frame LGBTQ+ identity, specifically transgender identity in youth, as a mental illness. And yet this is precisely the sort of content we said we would not sell. Why are we lying to our employees? Why are we lying to our customers? This is not how we earn trust.

We draw a line with content like Johnny the Walrus. A so-called children’s book that likens being transgender to a child pretending to be a walrus. It is the “I Identify as an Attack Helicopter” joke in book form. That’s Johnny the Walrus. The author of this book is self-identified “theocratic facist” Matt Walsh. Those are his words, not ours; you can look up his bio on Twitter right now. This book was inappropriately marketed to children, something our content policy explicitly forbids. Due to Matt Walsh’s manipulation of metadata, it was placed in the Children and LGBT+ categories. After pressure from our community, it has since been reclassified as “Political Commentary”, but that did not stop Walsh’s abuse of Amazon systems and Amazon’s customer trust.

On March 31, Transgender Day of Visibility, Amazon held a customer listening session where two employees presented and commented on customer calls about Johnny the Walrus and other products. They listened to a call between a distressed customer and an Amazon support agent about the malicious intent of Johnny the Walrus, which had just released its first printing at the time. A video of that presentation was leaked to the far-right Libs of TikTok Twitter account, and was published the morning that the second printing of Johnny the Walrus was released. Can you imagine the fear of transgender employees at seeing their coworkers’ identities plastered over conservative media? At seeing the names of fellow employees handed to a transphobic internet mob, wondering if they would be doxxed next? Matt Walsh appeared on Tucker Carlson that same night and blatantly attacked these employees and our customer. On his own show, he attacked our customer, calling them a “shrill, hectoring wench”. We will not delve into the horror of the Twitter threads, the comment sections, the blog posts, the articles from conservative outlets, and the disgusting, threatening things they say about our customers and employees.

Walsh used the publicity from this attack to get his book to number one on Amazon. Let me repeat that. The number one book across all of Amazon. Top of our charts. In Walsh’s own words, this effectively made him the bestselling author in the country. Amazon rewarded him for this harassment with enormous sales. Money he will use to keep spreading hate. This is fucking embarrassing. Everyone who let this happen should be embarrassed and ashamed.

Amazon did not protect and is not protecting our transgender employees from harassment and doxxing. They did not protect our contributions as our authentic selves from being leaked to the press. Amazon’s lack of action continues to put transgender employees in danger from people inside and outside of Amazon. Transgender employees have quit in fear for their safety because Amazon has not taken the steps necessary to protect them.

Matt Walsh has a new documentary which will be released this very afternoon. Amazon isn’t finished profiting off of Matt Walsh’s hate speech, either; the book that accompanies the documentary is available for pre-order on Amazon. In making this documentary, Matt Walsh created a fake front organization called the Gender Unity Project. His producer, using a fake name, contacted well known trans people on the internet for interviews, so as to stitch them together, distort their words, and support a transphobic narrative. One of those people contacted was a fourteen year old girl. We wait in fear for that release. Because that leaked video was not the whole video, but a snippet. If they release the full video in high resolution to promote this next book and documentary, the names of all employees who attended that day will be laid bare for conservative media and the internet to see.

Matt Walsh is not some random transphobe on the internet. This man is a serial abuser who has openly attacked our coworkers and our customers, and it will happen again if Amazon does not act.

This is not a free speech or censorship issue. Companies like Amazon have a legal responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy workplace. Amazon has a moral obligation to apply its content guidelines to prevent hate and abuse.

Now, I’d like to turn the mic over to Vee, who’s experienced the direct consequences of Amazon’s decisions.

I am Vee. I resigned from Amazon in January 2022 due to the very transphobic hate you have heard about here today. After talking to my manager, VP, and SVP many times about the transphobia that the trans community experiences at Amazon, I was not listened to. I was time and time again referred to the books team and told to “trust the process.” Well, that “process” did not work and still has yet to work.

I did not want to resign from Amazon, but my mental health worsened due to the transphobic hate being sold by Amazon and the transphobia my peers experienced. All I could think about day to day was how it was affecting Amazon customers and Amazon employees. I dragged myself into work every day while suffering mentally. For my own mental health, I had to resign. I was failed by Amazon, who told me when hired that I would be celebrated and embraced here, that I was welcomed, and that trans hate was not welcome here.

It is time for Amazon to truly embrace that they do not sell books that frame LGBTQI+ identities as a mental illness, to issue an apology to the trans community, and to start reconciliation and change.

It is important that we not be complicit, that you and we stand with our fellow trans colleagues in their fight to feel included and celebrated in their workspace here at Amazon, and that you step outside of your comfort zone to be an ally to the trans Amazonian community. It is time to disrupt and change the system here at Amazon. It is time to demand transparency into processes, it is time to stop hate, it is time to remove trans hate books, and it is time that the trans community truly be included in the Amazon community.

We have made our demands in a petition that now bears the names of over 600 employees. We have delivered this petition directly to Amazon upper management, including Andy Jassy and the S-Team. These demands are the only means to resolve these cases of negligence, misconduct, and discrimination. We imagine a better future in which Amazon empowers workers with influence over the policies, products, and content that impact us, in order to protect all marginalized communities and oppressed groups, not just trans people. These demands are: one, stop selling the anti-transgender hate books including Irreversible Damage and Johnny the Walrus; and two, establish an elected workers’ oversight board which includes and collectively advocates for workers from marginalized communities and oppressed groups, exercises powers including rejecting and reclassifying content, communicates openly about decisions and justifications, and with implementation details of this board to be approved democratically by signers of our petition.

We are not radicals. We are employees who tried to cut a ticket, fix a broken mechanism, and build a better process. We sought to do things the Amazon way. When this didn’t work, we listened at this year’s All Hands to the words of Beth Galetti, head of HR, when she said that our leadership principles “apply to every single employee here, and you don’t have to wait for some corporate program to make us better every day yourself. … Find ways where, when you see a barrier, figure out a way around it … don’t wait for us centrally to have all of the answers, because I think we need everybody to be Earth’s Best Employer.” Well, Beth, we are not waiting. We are escalating, and we will continue to do so until our demands are met.

We believe in the Amazon Books policy that says ”We don’t sell certain content including content that we determine is hate speech, promotes the abuse of children, or other material we deem inappropriate or offensive.” We believe in our Leadership Principles, which tell us to be Customer Obsessed, to Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer, and that Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility.

The problem is that these principles and policies are not being equally or adequately applied. Our escalations have been halted by biased and discriminatory application of policy. At best, upper management is negligent. At worst, upper management is directly hostile.

We sent our petition to the S-team directly, all the way to the top, and received PR-quality replies with no action. We’ve tried to engage the decision makers, and received empty promises of support with no action. Upper management has refused to engage in conversation. They hide behind anonymous accounts and pre-written statements as if they are afraid of our community. We hope they are afraid of us! We are here today to remind them that we are not going away regardless of how much rainbow-washing, flag raising, and empty gestures they offer. We aren’t fooled.

They won’t say it, but we know why they are scared to take action. They are scared that taking these books down will attract political backlash from the right when they are already trying to avoid regulation from the left. Amazon claims to support the Equality Act, but they spend millions of lobbying dollars to curry favor with bigoted right-wing politicians who oppose it, hoping to avoid bipartisan support for antitrust action against the company.

We are not here to break up Amazon. We are here to tell you that bigots won’t be placated by Amazon’s sale of transphobic books. They will not stop trolling and harassing Amazon employees, and they will not stop asking Amazon to take stances contrary to our company values and Leadership Principles. They will keep pushing Amazon to take more and more abhorrent stances until they find a line that Amazon executives refuse to cross.

Russ Grandinetti, what is the line that you won’t cross?

Neil Lindsay, what is the line that you won’t cross?

Beth Galetti, what is the line that you won’t cross?

Andy Jassy, what is the line that you won’t cross?

Will you keep kicking the can down the road until it harms you personally? Or your loved ones? It’s time to stop delaying the inevitable by throwing trans workers, trans customers, and trans youth under the bus. You will need to take a stand eventually. It’s time to stand up against fascist ideology and take action.

How much longer can you ignore this situation? You think we will get tired, that we will burn out, and go away. Do you not realize: These are our jobs. These are our lives. These issues impact us every single day in our workplace. Until they are resolved, we will be impacted by them, and we will have no choice but to organize against the system that maintains them. We do not want to be activists. We just want to work, to feel safe and healthy, to do our jobs.

Every day you let this continue, more of our customers and employees lose their trust in Amazon leadership. They see through your rainbow washing and PR stunts. How long will you wait, while our numbers grow?

We are making a heartfelt appeal to your empathy and your humanity. We agree that there is value in representing a vast range of different and opposing viewpoints. We believe in democracy and diversity as much as any of you. We are asking for an end to the sale of content that causes such egregious harm. We are asking for a workplace in which we feel safe and free from discrimination.

We ask for leaders to be held accountable to our policies and our Leadership Principles. We have given you the instructions for how to do this on a silver platter, in the form of our petition signed by hundreds upon hundreds of employees. When you are ready to talk, we are here. Go to nohateatamazon.org and use our contact form.

And for those assembled today that have heard what we have said, we invite you to join us. Find us online. Sign our petition. That’s all it takes to help us. And if you want to do more, use our contact form to get involved. Stand with us, your colleagues, against the hate we experience in our workplace.

Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility. We started in a garage, but we’re not there anymore. We are big, we impact the world, and we are far from perfect. We must be humble and thoughtful about even the secondary effects of our actions. Our local communities, planet, and future generations need us to be better every day. We must begin each day with a determination to make better, do better, and be better for our customers, our employees, our partners, and the world at large. And we must end every day knowing we can do even more tomorrow. Leaders create more than they consume and always leave things better than how they found them.

We are a movement of workers. We are No Hate At Amazon, and we call on this company to reject hate in all its forms.