Amazon Prime Day offers great sales – here’s what workers are suffering to make it happen
Our company claims we care about workers, but in our consumer-centric culture, low selling prices take precedence over what goes behind the scenes.
A quick Google search for Amazon Prime Day 2021 yields article pages touting all the cool things you can buy. It is not easy to know what effects this has on Amazon workers.
Amazon is a great American success story. You’ve probably seen the photo taken in the early 1990s of the online retailer of a young Jeff Bezos sitting behind a shabby desk with an Amazon banner slid suspended above him. Fast forward to today, the online retailer is one of the largest and most successful businesses in modern history. Bezos and investors in the company’s shares have made a fortune. Little is said about the stressful and harsh life of its workers.
During the pandemic, when businesses were scheduled to shut down, online giants like Amazon benefited greatly. To get a feel for the enormity of consumer demand, Amazon hired more than 300,000 people to track orders. A New York Times investigative piece shed a harsh light on the lives of warehouse workers.
The story centers on JFK8, a large warehouse based on Staten Island, which is a working-class, upper-middle-class neighborhood of New York City. The location pays about $ 18.25 an hour, or about $ 37,000 per year for a full-time worker.
The article claims that CEO Jeff Bezos “discovered what he thought was another inefficiency worth eliminating: hourly workers who spent years working for the same company.” His theory of people, according to the article, is that workers expect increases. The embarrassing fact, according to the report, is that if people want increases, their contribution decreases over time. As workers are said to disengage and become less enthusiastic over time, Amazon is encouraging its employees to leave. When they leave, the place is filled with a new face, eager to work.
This employee turnover keeps wages low. In an effort to get rid of workers, whom the company views as a depreciating asset, the New York Times wrote: “After three years on the job, hourly workers no longer received automatic raises and the company offered bonuses to people who quit. It also offered limited upward mobility for hourly workers, preferring to hire managers from outside. ” According to Time, “Amazon’s revenue is much higher than that of many other companies, with an annual rate of around 150% for warehouse workers. ”
It sounds cold, but it has an uncomfortable feel. It is difficult for someone who performs physically demanding, repetitive and monotonous manual work to stay motivated day after day, year after year. It becomes even harder to stay bullish when there doesn’t seem to be much upside on the horizon.
Some of the other takeouts in the room include:
- The internal systems of the company have wrongly caused some workers to lose their benefits and their jobs.
- The policy of close monitoring of workers has fueled cultural fear.
- Questions have been raised regarding racial inequity.
- Regardless of people’s lives, workers sometimes don’t discover a new shift until the day before.
According to Fortune, “Amazon warehouse workers across the country have long complained about arduous working conditions. They say they have too few bathroom breaks, all of which are timed, excessive productivity goals and a dangerous work environment. The pandemic, they say, has only exacerbated the problems as more and more people have turned to delivery ”.
In 2019, Amazon workers protested against the working conditions.
Amazon employs over a million workers, making it the second-largest employer in the United States, after Walmart. Earlier this year there was a movement to organize Amazon workers. A vote was taken at an Alabama facility to determine whether the warehouse would become the company’s first unionized U.S. facility. However, the efforts of the unions did not prevail.
At the time, Rachael Lighty, an Amazon spokesperson, addressed this issue by saying, “Amazon already offers what unions ask employees: industry-leading compensation, comprehensive benefits from day one on the job, career development opportunities, all in a safe, modern and inclusive work environment. At Amazon, these benefits and opportunities come with work, as does the ability to communicate directly with company management. “
Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski said, “Our employees choose to work at Amazon because we offer some of the best jobs available wherever we hire, and we encourage anyone to compare our total compensation, benefits and work environment to any other company with similar jobs.
In order to improve working conditions, the retail giant has launched “Works well, a comprehensive program providing employees with physical and mental activities, wellness exercises and healthy eating support that are scientifically proven to help them rejuvenate and rejuvenate. The program is part of an initiative by the e-commerce giant empire to invest more than $ 300 million in safety projects in 2021 for its workers.
In the press release, the company said, “About 40% of work-related injuries at Amazon are musculoskeletal disorders, which include sprains or strains caused by repetitive movements. Pilots in the WorkingWell program have reduced these injuries. Leila Brown, a person involved in setting up the AmaZen booth, said in a corporate video that she wanted to “create a quiet space where people could go and focus on their mental and emotional well-being. “
Part of the wellness program includes AmaZen. It “guides employees through mindfulness practices” inside interactive kiosks installed on construction sites. Employees are encouraged to “visit AmaZen stations and watch short videos featuring easy-to-follow wellness activities including guided meditations, positive affirmations, calming scenes with sounds and more.”
The online vitriol was brutal. He said the program brought out all the pent-up anger that was brewing against the online shopping giant. This includes his treatment of employees and the resentment of outgoing CEO Jeff Bezos, who profited greatly during the pandemic, raising billions more to his already staggering net worth, while millions of workers across the country suffered layoffs and a rapid decline in their finances and their lives. standards.
Vice wildly reported, “In one of his most dystopian moves yet, Amazon is introducing tiny cubicles where its overworked warehouse workers can momentarily escape a job so exhausting that many workers say they don’t even have time to use the bathroom. The article pointed out: “What it actually looks like is a coffin-sized booth in the middle of an Amazon warehouse where workers can use a computer to view” sanity and conscious practices. ” .
Jeffrey Ku, operations worker at an Amazon fulfillment center in Aurora, Colorado, said, “Amazon takes our security very seriously, and my managers made it clear to me that this is more important than anything, even productivity and quality. WorkingWell is an extension of that: it ensures that we take care of our mind and body. It encourages us to make positive changes to the way we work, and since I started watching the videos from the health and safety program, I have incorporated a stretching routine into my day.
It is fair to point out the failures. There should also be at least some recognition that the company is striving to improve the lives of workers. The wellness program is not meant to be a panacea. The plan is a small step. Amazon will give the concept a try and test to see if it resonates and helps workers cope with demanding jobs.
the Guardian reports on a fledgling attempt to organize 5,000 workers on Staten Island. In April 2020, warehouse workers were concerned about the Covid-19. Chris Smalls, who helped coordinate a protest walkout on Staten Island, said, “We won’t go back to work until they shut down the building.” Smalls complained, “If you don’t come because you choose to be safe with your family, they don’t pay us. ”
The company said in a statement that Smalls was paid for the two weeks he quarantined himself. Amazon generally denies all accusations of dangerous environments, saying, “These accusations are simply unfounded. We have taken extreme measures to keep people safe, tripling deep cleaning, making available safety supplies and changing processes to ensure those in our buildings keep safe distances. Amazon also increased his salary by $ 2 an hour for a period of time.
After helping to organize the protest walkout, Smalls was fired from his job. Amazon claims Smalls violated a company order to quarantine itself. The online retailer also claims it has put his colleagues at risk of contracting the virus.
Smalls is now “spearheading an effort to organize more than 5,000 workers in four Amazon facilities at Staten Island, including a giant warehouse. He created an independent union, the Amazon Labor Union, without being discouraged by the precedent “a crushing defeat“in Alabama.
Smalls said, “New York is a union city. Bus drivers, sanitation workers, police, firefighters, they’re all unionized. Everyone is related or knows someone in a union. I believe we will be successful. Small GoFundMe raised about $ 4,500.
At the time of publication, Amazon had not returned requests for comment.