Last Friday, the ACLU took out a full page ad in the Seattle Times offering to legally represent Amazon employees who were discriminated against by the company. Let’s hope that this is just the beginning.
The ACLU’s appeal sought “Amazon employees who believe they were unlawfully penalized because of their decision to have children, or because they were caring for a sick relative or recovering from an illness of their own.” It was spurred by the big New York Times story on the brutal Amazon workplace culture, which focused on Amazon’s white collar office workers. While their plight is certainly bad in its own way, let us not forget the other enormous portion of the Amazon workforce that has gotten little attention in the wake of the blockbuster story.
Amazon does not just drive its white collar workers to despair with long work hours and callous disregard of humanity. It also employs a huge number of blue collar workers—the people who roam gargantuan warehouses to pick, pack, and ship all of the items that you buy. They not only have their own set of well-documented run ins with inhuman working conditions—when their work is over every day, they have to stand in line and be searched be company guards during time that they are not paid for. As America’s media and political institutions stumble over themselves to condemn the way that Amazon treats its office workers, please spare a thought for the warehouse workers, who put up with the same shit and get paid even less for it.
In the interest of keeping Amazon’s warehouse workers “in the conversation,” we present a couple of stories from our bottomless file of unpublished stories sent to us by Amazon workers. First, another tale of Amazon stealing hours from employees, something that we’ve heard about before. Bolding ours:
I started in January with SMX staffing. I was in the Kindle dept. running tests and diagnostics on returned devices. Prepping them for refurbished sales. My hours were 7:15 - 5:45. After peak season is over in Kindle we get dispersed out into other areas of the warehouse. I was hired directly to Amazon in March. Given 40 hrs of unpaid time off for the quarter. I was originally told I would be leaving Kindle around the first part of April. Didn’t end up leaving until May 1 due to volume of returns. Hours for the rest of the building are 7:00-5:30. I was docked an hour of unpaid time for every time I came in at 7:15 from the beginning of March til May 1. Penalized unknowingly for showing up at my correct start time for 2 months. I was not alone here either, at least 8 others in this boat with me. I was ultimately fired for being in the negative with my unpaid time. When I brought this to h.r. attention they tried to “help” by substituting the upt hours for my paid hours but I didn’t have enough of those either to even it out... ?? I shouldn’t have been penalized period so those hours should just come back, no need for me to cover them at all!! H.R. double talk and slight of hand made it sound good but I’m not stupid. I took my beating with my head up (hated the non Kindle job anyway) but returned to my co-workers to drop some knowledge on them. Our bonuses based on performance are given out according to our attendance. By taking the 15 minute- 1 hr penalty on all people in my same situation at least 4 people were cheated out of around 300$. They were told nothing could be done, it was our responsibility to keep track of these things. So among everything else we are expected to do H.R.s’ job also!! Ridiculous. They bring in about 50 new temp hires daily making it very clear every blue badge is expendable. Another quick example: power went out one day and the entire building was released 10 minutes early with the promise of no penalty- voluntary time off would cover it. A month later I found out everyone in the building was docked for the whole hour that day!! After seeing this was not confined to my building I had to share. I wouldn’t buy Amazon for this reason and a few others. Disgruntled employees tend to throw merchandise around. Lack of proper training leads to defective product continuously being resold. I shouldn’t be and I’m not surprised but I still hate to see these juggernauts continuously tread on the lower middle class.
And another story from a happy Amazon employee:
I want to tell someone about my employment experience at an Amazon.com warehouse in Carlisle PA. There is really a lot of things messed up with this place and the situations I encountered over the three year stint was a huge shit sandwich. I worked at this facility from March of 2011 to my quitting in January of this year. Of course I started out with SMX staffing agency until hired on as a “blue badge” (Amazon employee) in August of 2011. There is so much to tell I don’t know how much you want to hear because I could write a book about my experience. Could you imagine that?? A book about the horrors of Amazon.com employment! Get your copy today with free shipping at Amazon.com!!!!! That would piss off Herr Bezos, the greedy little bastard. As you can sense, I can’t stand the little prick. I even wrote him an email of complaint about the managers on my shift. That’ll teach him to expose his email for all to have. Didn’t serve too much justice, but hell the regional H.R. manager flew in from the Midwest just to talk to little ole me. So, I will give you some things to read, if you find it boring I am sure that you will tell me not to waste any more time. But if you find it interesting let me know. And by the way, anyone who sends emails and messages defending Amazon as a “great place to work” is someone from the inside getting paid to shoot down negative reviews and tries to color in a few blue skies within the walls of hell...
They hire any warm body off the street and if they possess a driver’s license, they are trained to drive PIT. (power industrial trucks) Which is scary because most of them never drove a forklift of any means and are put into the main artery of traffic in the warehouse. New hires get limited training and some are very scared of the machines. Not to mention the pressure to reach a rate so you can keep your job. This intimidation tactic for productivity creates a ton of accidents in the racks. After you reach a comfort zone, no one gives a shit about safety. “I gotta make rate to keep my job”!
The main thing I learned here is you don’t get any further after about three years in this environment. If.....you even make it that far. After three years, NO more raises. PERIOD. The only way to earn a little bit more is to kiss ultimate ass and become an Amazon zombie. Which means you lose your personality and become an official asshole. You lose all respect of the once friends you had and enjoy your new corporate Amazon propaganda filled heads. I like the banner they have raised inside the entrance of the building. Work Hard, Have Fun, Make History. What a crock of shit. I’d like to say “Hey Bezos, does this look familiar, Arbeit macht frei”?...If someone is looking for a solid respectful job, my advice is don’t waste three years of your life making someone extremely rich when you can succeed somewhere else with a decent company.