Workers at Amazon brace for another grueling week spurred by Prime Day
But that won’t be done in time for this Prime Day. Workers told CNN Business the job continues to take a big physical and mental toll — especially during periods of high demand when mandatory overtime is enacted.
“When I think of Amazon Prime Day, I think of mandatory overtime,” said Tyler Hamilton, who works as a trainer at Amazon’s Shakopee, Minnesota, facility. “For customers, maybe it’s Prime Day — for us, it is at least Prime Week.”
Natalie Monarrez, an Amazon associate at the company’s Staten Island facility, also distinguished between the way customers and workers experience Prime Day. “I think the discounts are really helpful for the customers,” she said. “It is overwhelming for the workers. But we find a way to work through it and deal with it like we always do.”
In a statement, Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel told CNN Business: “Even with careful planning, as an organization that has seasonal fluctuations of customer demand, overtime is sometimes necessary and when that does happen, we ensure that all employees are fairly compensated.”
“We also have a process in place so that employees who are unable to work overtime for personal reasons are able to speak with managers and map out a schedule that works for them,” Nantel added, noting that typically the company gives employees three weeks’ notice ahead of mandatory extra time but, at times, that time frame is shorter.
Monarrez, who told CNN Business she’s been living out of her car in recent years, said she’s worked several Prime Days and it tends to mean more of the same physical labor she’s used to every other day. “I throw the packages in the boxes on the conveyer belt,” she said. “I need to hit a minimum of 1,800 packages per hour, so I tune everything or everybody out and try to stay laser focused on what I’m doing so I can either meet or exceed that rate.”
According to Dania Rajendra, director of Athena, a coalition of organizations focused on confronting Amazon’s growing power, the very existence of Prime Day exemplifies the underlying issues of valuing profit and speed over workers’ well-being. “Free shipping isn’t free,” she said. “It comes at huge costs to the people who make it possible for us to get our stuff.” (Athena is organizing a series of actions on Prime Day, including hanging banners in 20 states to convey #AmazonHurts, the hashtag it’s using to draw attention to Amazon’s treatment of workers.)
“We need a better vision for how we create value for employees”
“Does your Chair take comfort in the outcome of the recent union vote in Bessemer? No, he doesn’t,” Bezos wrote. “I think we need to do a better job for our employees. While the voting results were lopsided and our direct relationship with employees is strong, it’s clear to me that we need a better vision for how we create value for employees — a vision for their success.”
A metric that’s yet to change
Workers, however, told CNN Business they weren’t aware of any changes to how the metric is tracked or viewed internally. “Many times when they make decisions and make announcements, there is not an actual process in place yet to implement that,” said Hamilton. “We’ll be left here at the ground level, like, ‘OK, they announced something, but what does that mean for us?”
Amazon posted a link to the blog post regarding changing “time off task” in its app for employees, but it does not appear to have taken effect in time to alleviate the pressures workers feel on Prime Day. According to Nantel, when a new policy is issued, it will be communicated to employees through internal channels.
CNN’s Richa Naik contributed to this report.