GeekWire Podcast: Amazon employees defy company; taxing tech; umbrellas as lightning rods

It was a big week on the Seattle and Pacific Northwest tech beat. Here’s what we’re talking about on this new episode of the GeekWire Podcast:

Amazon employees are responding to threats of termination for their climate advocacy by intentionally violating the company’s corporate communications policy.

More than 350 workers criticized Amazon’s contribution to climate change, violating corporate PR rules that prevent employees from discussing company business without approval. It’s the latest example of tech workers leveraging their position as valued assets in a tight labor market to pressure their employers on political issues.

Washington state lawmakers are considering a new regional tax that would raise an estimated $121 million a year from some of the Seattle area’s biggest employers, including tech giants Microsoft and Amazon, to fund programs to alleviate homelessness.

The legislation, unveiled Wednesday, is the latest attempt to direct some of the wealth generated by Seattle’s tech boom toward addressing the homelessness crisis.

Umbrellas become a lightning rod on Amazon’s Seattle campus. In any other city, umbrellas would barely be noticed. But Amazon’s big orange-and-white rain deflectors are sparking discussion and debate in Seattle, where there’s a sizable and prideful segment of the population that believes umbrellas are not for locals, they’re for tourists and transplants. “Complaining about umbrellas is easily the worst old Seattle vs. new Seattle take,” an Amazon public policy employee wrote on Twitter.

One GeekWire reader summed up the criticism in a comment: “It’s not the issue of using an umbrella – it’s how friggin’ gigantic they are. To me these umbrellas are everything that’s wrong with Amazon. No consideration for anyone but themselves.”

And finally, we discuss what a Seattle startup leader’s car purchase says about state of transportation in the city, and the uncertainty that can come with relying on experimental startups for vital services like getting from place to place.

Listen above, or subscribe to GeekWire in your favorite podcast app.

GeekWire civic editor Monica Nickelsburg and geek life reporter Kurt Schlosser join me this week. Curt Milton produces the show. Music by Daniel L.K. Caldwell. 

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