Amazon is one of the most successful and influential companies in the world. It has revolutionized e-commerce, cloud computing, digital streaming, artificial intelligence and more. It has over 1.3 million employees worldwide and generated over $386 billion in revenue in 2020. It has millions of loyal customers who enjoy its fast delivery, low prices and wide selection of products.
But behind the scenes, there is a darker side to Amazon’s success story. Many of its workers, especially those who work in its warehouses or fulfillment centers, face harsh and unsafe working conditions that put their health and well-being at risk. They are subjected to unrealistic and stressful productivity goals, constant surveillance and monitoring, inadequate breaks and benefits, and a culture of fear and intimidation.
In this blog post, we will explore some of the most common and serious working condition problems that Amazon workers face, based on various reports and testimonies from workers themselves. We will also look at how these problems affect Amazon’s customers, competitors and reputation, and what actions are being taken by workers and others to demand better conditions and more respect from the company.
One of the problems that Amazon workers face is the lack of holidays or time off. Many workers claim that they are not given the day off for major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s Day. Instead, they are expected to work long hours to meet the increased demand from customers who shop online during these periods.
For instance, in 2015, a part-time employee at the Stoughton, Massachusetts, Amazon warehouse told WBZ that employees weren’t given the day off for Thanksgiving. He said: “They told us they don’t care about Thanksgiving. They just care about Christmas.” He also said that workers were threatened with termination if they didn’t show up for work on Thanksgiving.
Similarly, in 2019, a worker at the Shakopee, Minnesota, Amazon warehouse told Vox that he had to work on Thanksgiving Day from 6:30 p.m. to 5 a.m., with only two 15-minute breaks and one 30-minute break. He said: “It’s hard to spend time with your family when you have to work on holidays.”
Working on holidays not only deprives workers of spending time with their loved ones, but also affects their mental and physical health. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, working on holidays can increase stress levels, lower mood and impair sleep quality. It can also reduce productivity and performance, as well as increase absenteeism and turnover.
Another problem that Amazon workers face is the pressure to meet strict and unrealistic deadlines or productivity goals. Workers have to scan, pack or sort a certain number of items per hour or per shift, which are tracked by scanners or cameras. If they fall behind or make mistakes, they can receive warnings or disciplinary actions from managers or supervisors.
For example, according to a report by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, Amazon expects its packers to handle at least 230 items per hour in a 10-hour shift. That means one item every 15 seconds. If they fail to meet this rate, they can be fired.
Many workers say that these deadlines are so tight that they have no time for bathroom breaks or rest. They have to resort to urinating in bottles or trash cans, skipping meals or drinking water, or running across the warehouse to avoid wasting time. Some workers even wear diapers or catheters to cope with the situation.
These deadlines not only create stress and anxiety for workers, but also pose serious risks to their safety and health. According to a report by The Guardian , workers at Amazon warehouses across the nation have suffered from injuries such as sprains, strains, fractures, concussions, hernias and more due to the fast-paced and demanding work environment. Some workers say they are shamed or discouraged from reporting their injuries or seeking medical attention.
Another problem that Amazon workers face is the punitive and inflexible attendance policy. Workers are penalized for missing work due to illness, injury or personal reasons through a points-based system that can lead to termination. Workers can also lose points for clocking in late or leaving early.
For instance, according to a report by The Verge , Amazon assigns workers six points per year for unplanned absences. If they use up all their points, they can be fired automatically without any explanation or appeal. Workers can also lose half a point for clocking in late by five minutes or leaving early by one minute. Workers can also lose 1.5 points for missing a shift without prior notice.
This policy makes it difficult for workers to balance their work and personal lives, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many workers have faced challenges such as childcare, transportation, health issues or family emergencies that have prevented them from showing up for work or on time. Some workers have also contracted or been exposed to the virus and had to quarantine or isolate themselves.
However, Amazon has not been very accommodating or supportive of these workers. According to a report by The New York Times , Amazon has fired hundreds of workers for violating its attendance policy during the pandemic, even though some of them had valid reasons or doctor’s notes. Some workers have also been denied paid sick leave or Covid-19 bonuses that were promised by the company.
Another problem that Amazon workers face is the lack of reliable and affordable transportation to and from the warehouse, especially during night shifts or bad weather. Many Amazon warehouses are located in remote or industrial areas that are not well served by public transit or other transportation options. Workers have to rely on their own cars, carpooling, taxis or ridesharing services to get to work.
However, these options can be costly, inconvenient or unsafe for workers. For example, according to a report by Vice , some workers at the Staten Island Amazon warehouse have to pay up to $70 per week for a shuttle service that takes them to and from the warehouse. Some workers have also reported being harassed, assaulted or robbed by drivers or passengers while using these services.
Some workers have also faced difficulties in finding parking spaces near the warehouse or have had their cars towed or damaged while parked there. According to a report by The Seattle Times , some workers at the Kent Amazon warehouse have had to park on nearby streets or lots that are not owned by Amazon and have received tickets or fines for doing so. Some workers have also had their cars broken into or stolen while parked there.
These transportation problems not only add to the financial and emotional burden of workers, but also affect their attendance and performance at work. Some workers have missed shifts, arrived late or left early due to transportation issues. Some workers have also been injured or killed in car accidents while commuting to or from work.
These are some of the most common and serious working condition problems that Amazon workers face. These problems have negative impacts on workers’ health, safety, well-being and dignity. They also affect Amazon’s customers, competitors and reputation, as well as the environment and society at large.
Many Amazon workers have spoken out, protested and organized against these problems and demanded better working conditions and more respect from the company. They have been supported by labor unions, activists, politicians and consumers who share their concerns and grievances.
However, Amazon has not been very responsive or receptive to these demands and criticisms. It has often denied, dismissed or downplayed the problems and defended its policies and practices. It has also resisted or retaliated against any attempts to unionize or regulate its operations.
Therefore, it is important for all stakeholders involved to continue to raise awareness, pressure and action on this issue until Amazon changes its ways and treats its workers fairly and humanely.