As Amazon removes advertisements for union-busting roles, workers reveal a chaotic and unsafe work environment marked by bullying and abuse. These grievances appear to be just the tip of the iceberg, as employees from various departments echo similar concerns, including stress, managerial mistreatment, internal threats among workers, unaddressed complaints, discrimination, and inadequate security measures.
Following a report by The Register on September 2, 2020, detailing allegations against Amazon, the publication received multiple messages from Amazon employees supporting and expanding on the reported issues. In interviews with five Amazon workers across different U.S. locations, serious concerns about the company’s practices were underscored.
One major complaint involves Amazon’s imposition of demanding work rates to sustain its rapid delivery pace. Work rate expectations vary depending on the job role, with delivery drivers having specific daily delivery quotas and warehouse workers having hourly package processing targets. Falling short of these rates can lead to termination, creating significant pressure for employees with livelihoods at stake.
During the pandemic, as millions stayed home, stressed managers reportedly bullied and intimidated workers over work rates, with frequent changes exacerbating the pressure. Employees recounted instances where rate expectations increased, decreased, and changed without clear communication, adding stress to an already precarious situation.
Amazon justifies its actions by citing an average derived from the top 10% of workers, while the bottom 5% face write-ups. Long-term workers claim that Amazon’s work rate standards vary widely, making it challenging for employees to meet expectations consistently.
The time-off-task (TOT) metric is another method Amazon rigorously follows. Workers exceeding TOT limits face write-ups and potential automatic termination, with area managers accused of frequently abusing this authority. The constant surveillance, coupled with an algorithm judging both employees and managers, creates what workers describe as a “Mad Max atmosphere.”
This intense work environment, coupled with pressure to meet daily delivery targets, reportedly compromises safety standards. Workers describe instances where safety rules were neglected to increase delivery numbers, leading to double-stacking pallets and disregarding team-lift requirements.
Workers also claim they are under constant scrutiny by algorithms, prompting seasoned employees to document their actions to provide explanations for any TOT-related issues. The atmosphere, as described by one worker, resembles a “decent-paying sweatshop.”
Complaints about injuries sustained on the job further highlight Amazon’s lack of safety prioritization. Some employees struggled to receive workers’ compensation for medical bills, post-surgery medications, and travel expenses. Workers reported delays in decision-making, leaving them in limbo between expected work and potential termination.
The ongoing pandemic poses additional challenges, with workers alleging inconsistent adherence to safety policies by managers and a lack of clarity in Amazon’s infection reporting. Employees claim they were notified late about coworkers testing positive for COVID-19, and Amazon’s promise to cover wages during recovery is allegedly not always fulfilled.
Amidst these issues, reports suggest that Amazon is intensifying surveillance to deter unionization efforts. Organizers are relocated, and groups are disrupted to prevent discussions about unionization. Job listings for intelligence analysts, interpreted as union-busting roles, were recently posted and later removed by Amazon, citing errors in role descriptions.
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