Show me what democracy looks like!

This is what democracy looks like!

Those chants kicked off a rally Saturday that started at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle, where around 100 people gathered to demand that the company provide paid time off between now and Election Day so that employees can vote.

The protest was organized by the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, a group of Amazon tech workers which launched in early 2019 and initially gained traction with workers over concerns about climate change. The group has also been speaking out on warehouse working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are here today because we know that democracy only works when everyone can and does participate,” said an Amazon software engineer, speaking on megaphone at the rally. “We know that work is a major barrier for people all across the country. That’s why we’re calling on Amazon, the second-largest private employer in country, to give all workers paid time off to vote.”

(GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper)
(Photo courtesy of Amazon Employees for Climate Justice)

The rally, which began at Amazon’s Spheres and moved to a Whole Foods store and an Amazon warehouse facility, follows an internal petition posted on the company’s internal ticketing system asking for paid time off to vote. The petition has been signed by more than 6,000 employees.

Rally organizers said on Saturday they hadn’t yet heard back from Amazon executives.

“We have supplied all of our employees with information on how to register to vote, details of their local polling locations and how to request time off to vote,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement. “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 number of hours and pay provided to employees varies by state in line with local laws.”

Amazon managers have been informed that PTO requests for voting should be approved and/or accommodated.

Amazon’s headcount increased to 876,800 employees as of June 30, not including seasonal and temporary workers.

The petition and rally come at a time when hours-long lines are being reported in states where early voting has begun.

Other companies such as Walmart and Best Buy are giving workers paid time off to vote.

Editor’s note: Statement from Amazon added to this story. 

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