Not Every Amazon Warehouse Employee Has A Horror Story
There have been dozens of stories portraying Amazon warehouses as inhumane, hellish workplaces, and while some workers may have been subject to these conditions, the ones I spoke to hadnât. âIt is certainly hard work,â said Brant Ivey, who spent six months in one of Amazonâs hubs lifting oversized objects. But âthe conditions at the warehouse were on par or better than most other warehouses that I have been in.â One of the biggest complaints is that the warehouses are too hot. In 2012, after a lengthy expose revealed brutally hot summertime conditions, Amazon announced plans to spend $52 million to install air conditioning in its U.S. warehouses.
One Reddit user put it bluntly: âThe work does suck, but all warehouse work sucks. I have experienced FAR worse conditions and been treated terrible by other Fortune 500 companies.â
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Amazon Lost Market Share Early In The Pandemic
Competitors cut into Amazons substantial market share in the U.S., in part because the company was showing customers long delivery times.
Mr. Stroup worried how Amazon would summon workers back. The company needed to know who didnt intend to return so that it could replace them. But forcing employees too abruptly could result in firing tens of thousands of people. Mr. Stroup knew the work offered a lifeline: The cleanliness, the procedure, the pay, the benefits all of that is very competitive, he said.
He prepared surveys and data for Mr. Clark, the operations chief, who would make the final decision. Id heard Dave was saying: Lets just move faster. This isnt helping people not knowing if they are coming back to work or not. Weve created a safe place to work weve proven that people arent getting Covid at work so lets just find out if they want to come back or not, he said.
In a virtual meeting, Mr. Stroup told Mr. Clark that if employees were brought back gradually, over a month or two, only 5 to 10 percent were projected to stay home and lose their jobs. Under the faster plan, many more were likely to be fired for not showing up. The cold-turkey example was pretty bad, Mr. Stroup said, like it was 20 to 30 percent of people would be let go in the month.
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Amazon Warehouse Employees See Some Crazy Orders
If thereâs one thing all Amazon warehouse workers will tell you, itâs that people order some weird things. âThe amount of stand-up life-size Justin Biebers I saw was unnecessary,â Mided says. âAnd a lot more sex toys than you would think. Really odd ones. Even grown men or women warehouse workers are still kinda like a 12-year-old when they see that. Amazon really does sell everything.â
Human Resources By App
Immediately, leave applications flooded into an Amazon back office in San José, Costa Rica. The system couldnt keep up.
Dangelo Padilla, a Costa Rican case manager who started at Amazon in 2016, woke up every morning to confront what he described as insurmountable tasks before him and his colleagues. They had already been overwhelmed by a backlog of almost 18,000 cases in early March, emails show, and over the last week in April got 13,500 more requests.
Panicked workers trying to take leaves found phone lines busy and got auto-replies warning of delayed responses. Some who applied for leaves were being penalized for missing work, triggering warning notices and then terminations. When their messages reached Mr. Padilla and his colleagues, workers were distraught.
This is impacting the employees and impacting us, Mr. Padilla said he entreated their managers. You have to fix this.
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Remind Families That They Matter
The new shelter will include a family resource centre similar to existing Marys Place shelters in North Seattle and White Centre, where volunteers and staff provide services and work with families and individuals with the aim of helping them to secure permanent employment and housing.Since April 2016, Amazon has worked with Marys Place to provide shelter for more than 200 families at two different temporary sites, but this will be the first permanent homeless shelter created by the company.Executive director of the charity Marty Hartman, says: To have a permanent downtown Seattle location within Amazon is a game-changer for Marys Place and the families we serve. This unique, first-of-its-kind shelter will remind families that they matter and that their community wants to help them succeed.Amazons new headquarters and the homeless shelter are expected to be completed in early 2020.All photos by Graphite Design
Pickers Packers And Points
Most jobs at Amazon warehouses are those of pickers and packers. Pickers pull merchandise off storage shelves and place them in bins, then put the bins on conveyor belts to be taken to the packers. The packers package up the products, slap a label on them and put them on another conveyor belt to be taken to a waiting truck.
Emily Guendelsberger, a journalist, took a pre-Christmas job at Amazon in 2015 after the newspaper she worked for in Philadelphia closed. She lasted a month. But before she quit, it gave her enough experience to write one of the few first-hand accounts of what its like to work in an Amazon warehouse.
At first, she said, she got a certain pleasure from all the running around she was doing as a picker at the 25-acre Amazon fulfillment center outside Louisville, Kentucky.
A GPS-enabled, hand-held scanner would tell her what items to pull off the shelves, where to find them and then begin a countdown of the time she was allowed to complete the task. She would place the items in a yellow bin, known as a tote, that she would push around with her.
When a bin was two-thirds full, she would push it to the nearest conveyor belt and send it gliding off to parts unknown, then start a new one, Guendelsberger wrote in her 2019 book, On The Clock.
Every time the scanner has me squat down to get something from a low drawer, its a little harder to force myself back up to standing.
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Theres Not Some Massive Conspiracy To Lose/damage Your Items
Anyone who uses knows how much stuff they lose and or damage, so much so that Ive heard conspiracy theories float around that Amazon purposely loses and damages items just so they can resell them and lower the effective price of your items.
The fact is, Amazon loses a lot of stuff. If a picker accidentally places an item in an adjacent bin, it will go missing for quite a while. Also, given how rapidly their warehouses are expanding many people dont even know where certain sections of the warehouse are, let alone where a single item in that warehouse is. Eventually, the item will turn up but youll likely have been reimbursed by then.
That was the other striking thing about losses, how little rhyme or reason there seemed to be to organization. They would have a $2000 laptop stacked randomly in the same gaylord with an oven and bowling ball . Its not my picture below, but its exactly how the YVR warehouse looked like with hundreds and thousands of gaylords stacked with completely unrelated items.
As for damage, Amazon has a very liberal damage policy. On a TV or electronic, if theres a hole on a box larger than a coin, the picker must mark it as damaged. On everything else, if theres a hole larger than a playing card, the picker must mark it as damaged. Once an item is marked as damaged, the item goes to a single person in the warehouse who will decide the extent of the damage and at which point either Amazon resells it or they sell it to a third party.
A Side Note Limited Photography
I wish I could have taken more pictures of the inside of the warehouse, but Amazon has a very strict no cellphone/no pictures policy and entering and leaving the warehouse is akin to going through airport security in Israel. Upon entering the building you must go through a locked turnstile that requires your employment badge. When you actually enter the warehouse youre forbidden from bringing your cell phone . Upon leaving you must go through a metal detector, which invariably goes off because of the steel-toed shoes youre required to wear, and thereafter youre randomly selected for a full-body search.
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Record Profits Halted Raises
On Staten Island, workers began getting the dreaded warnings.
Mr. Cavagnaro, who had worked with Alberto Castillo, had taken a leave from Amazon. He suggested a June return date on a doctors note, but couldnt reach the company to ask questions or discuss coming back. Amazons attendance systems recorded him as a no-show, and he began getting job-abandonment notices. Unable to get a reply, he threw his hands up and allowed himself to be fired.
After The Times asked Amazon about his situation, the company offered him his job back.
Health insurance that Amazon provided covered most of the medical bills, but Ms. Castillo discovered that her husbands short-term disability payments had stopped. I kept sending in medical forms but couldnt tell if anyone on the other end was actually receiving them, she said. The house they had hoped to buy was a vanished dream now she was counting every penny and accepting donations from friends.
JFK8s human resources manager apologized and set the 10 weeks of missed payments right. Amazon said the documents Ms. Castillo had submitted never made it to his case manager, a systems issue that had affected others as well.
As workers returned, Amazon informed employees nationwide that it was ending the $2-an-hour raise and double overtime pay. The extra wages had not been hazard pay, officials said, but an incentive to show up.
‘we Are Not Robots’: Amazon Warehouse Employees Push To Unionize
Workers announced launch of union push in response to working conditions as company says it does not recognize allegations
As Amazons workforce has more than doubled over the past three years, workers at Amazon fulfillment center warehouses in the United States have started organizing and pushing toward forming a union to fight back against the companys treatment of its workers.
Amazons global workforce reached more than 613,000 employees worldwide according to its latest quarterly earnings report, not including the 100,000 temporary employees the company hired for the holiday season.
Just a few months after Amazon opened its first New York-based fulfillment center in Staten Island, workers announced on 12 December the launch of a union push with help from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
Amazon is a very big company. They need to have a union put in place, said an worker who requested to remain anonymous. The worker has been with the company for two years and was transferred to Staten Island when it opened in October 2018. They overwork you and youre like a number to them. During peak season and Prime season, they give you 60 hours a week. In July, I had Prime week and worked 60 hours. The same day I worked overtime, I got into a bad car accident because I was falling asleep behind the wheel.
They noted that to keep up with that hourly rate, workers cannot take bathroom breaks or they risk Tot that could be used to justify job termination.
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Amazon Warehouse Employees Walk A Lot
Amazon fulfillment centers are colossal. One warehouse in Baltimore covers one million square feet, or roughly 23 acres. Thatâs a lot of land to cover on foot. One employee, who worked in Amazon warehouses for 14 years, told us he walked 13 miles a day when picking. âThatâs over a 10 hour period, so its like 1.3 miles per hour, which isnât bad,â he says. âBut doing it for 10 hours straight, by the third or fourth day your legs are almost like jelly.â
You And Your Family’s Health
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Amazon Warehouses Are Still Primitive
One of the things I was most excited about with working at an Amazon warehouse was commanding the army of robots and drones picking and packing items.
There was not a single robot . All of the picking and packing was done absolutely manually. I felt like I was working on a prison chain gang breaking boulders.
The YVR3 warehouse in New Westminster, Canada
What Amazon does have in place is an EXCELLENT tracking system. Every picker and packer has a bar code gun which is their absolute lifeline. It tracks how many items you pick in an hour, where in the warehouse youve travelled to, what types of items, etc. You have certain metrics you have to adhere to called your rate, i.e. youll be expected to pick 40 items in an hour. If you miss your rate significantly, you get talked to and coached. If you consistently miss your rate you wont have your contract renewed. They evaluate you completely on objective and fair performance metric. The result was a) the culture seemed to be extremely good and b) no one gives a crap how you do your job as long as you do it .
Break Schedules At Amazon
You usually get a 30 minutes unpaid lunch break and a 15 minute paid break. For 10 hour shifts you get two 30 minute breaks or two fifteen minute breaks and one unpaid thirty minutes lunch break.
According to Amazons policy, associates are given the 30 minutes break after working five hours consecutively.
For overnight workers, lunch breaks can last 40 minutes while the short breaks last 20 minutes.
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‘work Hard Have Fun Make History’
Teams huddle together on the warehouse floor at the start of their shift.
“I say Amazon, you say ‘efficiency’,” a supervisor chants.
The supervisor asks someone to lead the daily team stretches. The workers are asked to share an Amazon ‘success story’. This is all designed to gear ‘Amazonians’ up for the high-pressure day ahead.
‘Work hard. Have fun. Make history.’ The company’s motto is woven into a huge rainbow-coloured mural at the front of the warehouse.
Employees here responsible for storing, picking, and packing tens of thousands of items each day are a small cog in the huge machine behind Amazon’s vision to be an everything store for anyone, anywhere.
Some say their work is robotic and others compare their days to a dystopian video game.
“They would drill ideology into you every day. They’d try and brainwash you into becoming the star player of Amazon,” Amazonian 2 says.
At first, many of the Amazon ‘associates’ we spoke to were excited to be a part of something big. But the novelty wore off quickly.
Amazonian 1 works as a picker, one of the highest-pressure jobs on the warehouse floor, where algorithms determine how many items should be moved, stored, packed and picked within the hour.
The technology prioritises Amazon’s same-day deliveries.
At the start of his shift he collects a hand-held scanner ‘gun’ and trolley. His role involves collecting items from the warehouse shelves to make up people’s online orders.
Amazon Warehouse Employee Fakers Get Put On Broom Duty
“A lot of people would make up stuff just to get off the floor,â a former worker says. âSome people would just confuse being tired with being hurt. Theyâd say, âMy legs hurt!â No, youâve just been walking around forever.” If the nurse can’t find anything wrong with you but you insist you’re unwell, the supervisors will find an easy job for you to do that doesn’t require any heavy lifting. More often than not, this means broom duty. “That’s only good for the first hour,â Mided says. âTwelve hours of pushing a broom is the most mind-numbing thing on the planet. But that still doesn’t prevent people from faking.”
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Amazon Is Building Warehouses Faster Than Ever
In Facebook groups, warehouse workers across the country shared photos of the messages their managers sent to motivate and reward them. Some won air fryers or Fire TV Sticks. In Connecticut, a manager messaged employees at their workstations that if they handled 400 items an hour, or about one every 10 seconds, you WIN CANDY. At another, a sign went up during the holidays: Todays Snack: A Banana *Available 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.* In Ohio, workers got scratch-off cards to win prizes.
One employee scratched off two with the same message: Please try again.