AP Images / Peter Wynn Thompson
- Some Amazon tech workers say they are ashamed of the working conditions of the company’s warehouse workers.
- The tech workers are openly sharing words of encouragement to those warehouse employees, who are planning on a short strike during Amazon Prime Day.
- The striking workers want better pay, more reasonable work expectations and better chance for promotion.
- Amazon says it already provides all of this to them.
- However, warehouse workers tell a different side of the story: They talk about the constant pressure to perform, and how the company’s automated systems track them and can even automatically target them to get fired.
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A group of Amazon’s tech workers are openly supporting the planned strike by Amazon warehouse workers in Shakopee, Minnesota, next week during the online retailer’s Prime Day shopping event.
Some of them will even be flying out to walk the picket line and give speeches during the strike, says Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, the employee activist group organizing this show of support.
Others are publicly sharing letters and words of encourage to the strikers via Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, with multiple employees saying they are ashamed by the treatment of the fulfillment center workers.
"The treatment of FC workers is a source of shame to me as an Amazon employee," wrote Amazon employee Nancy Urban, in a blog post shared by the activist group.
"All Amazon employees should be proud to call themselves such. It is shameful that while Amazon chooses to be the industry leader in so many aspects of their employment policies, and yet continues to allow other aspects of their policies to be worthy of being called ‘inhumane’," wrote another anonymous employee in the blog post.
"When I was working as an engineer in Fulfillment, I spent a few days working in the warehouses and could not even come close to meeting the individual productivity quotas. The quotas are unrealistically high for most humans. I support FC employees in Minnesota who wish to lower quotas for safer and more comfortable working conditions," wrote Joey Siracusa in that same post.
The bigger mission
This show of support for their fellow employees was organized by a group with primary mission to push Amazon to better combat climate change.
Matt Cardy / Stringer / Getty ImagesThey want Amazon to stop using fossil fuels in its operations entirely and become a zero-emissions company in a timeline dictated by science. Amazon does have numerous green initiatives, such as building its own solar and wind farms. It has also promised to eventually use 100% renewable energy for its global infrastructure, but it has been vague as to the timeline.
Meanwhile, Prime Day, the retailer’s annual shopping event, is coming next week. While Amazon customers are anticipating the bargains, these Minnesota workers are using the spotlight to push for better conditions.
They want higher pay, more reasonable workloads, better opportunities for advancement. Amazon did not immediately return a request for comment to this story, but Amazon has said in reaction to the strike that it already offers the workers what they are asking for with its $15 minimum wage and pay up to $20.80 an hour, plus benefits like health care, parental leave, paid education and training.
In addition, Amazon just this week announced a program to train 100,000 of its employees with new tech skills including new programs available to warehouse workers who want to learn how to code. It will also be offering more tuition assistance to those who want to train for other high-demand occupations.
But new training options doesn’t combat the perception that the warehouse job involves inhumane expectations.
The company recently endured another round of criticism when John Oliver, host of HBO show Last Week Tonight, showcased the warehouse situation. His segment featured employees talking about how hard Amazon pushes them, their inability to take bathroom breaks, and showed Amazon’s anti-union training video.
Amazon exec Dave Clark, the senior VP of operations, insisted that Oliver’s portrayal of the job is untrue, and noted the company even offers tours of its warehouses. That’s true — tThe tours are limited to specific warehouses, but the Shakopee, MN facility is among them.
Still, as Business Insider previously reported, the company does appear to treat its warehouse workforce like robots. It even uses an automated system that tracks warehouse workers’ productivity that can automatically generate the paperwork to fire them for failing to meet expectations.
As one anonymous Amazon tech worker put it in the blog post: "You guys are the lifeblood of Amazon! Keep raising the bar and insisting on the highest working standards! You have the support of Seattle!"
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