In 21st century capitalism, in the event of a crisis, work in Amazon’s logistics centres is also one of the “systemically important professions”, alongside doctors, nurses and supermarket vendors. Instead of abstaining from the new hand blender for the immune-boosting smoothies or the 10th pack of toilet paper, people order what they can. Amazon can hardly keep up with the crisis/demand and is trying to hire more than 100,000 new employees worldwide. But it is now well known that Amazon is one of the worst employers in history when it comes to fundamental labour rights. Therefore Amazon wants to lure this (post-)industrial reserve army, which is now to be mobilised, with a small, “cynical” (Leipzig works council) wage increase. But: what goes around, comes around, even the richest person in the world, Jeff, thinks, and asks in a public crowd-funding for support in paying his employees. Cynical? That’s a nice way of putting it. Those users who keep Amazon alive through constant orders are now supposed to pay for the employees themselves. But even more so, because Jeff has been very active in the last few days: In order to cope with the influx of 100,000 new employees, Jeff (sic!) has written a letter to his employees.
This isn’t business as usual, and it’s a time of great stress and uncertainty. It’s also a moment in time when the work we’re doing is its most critical.
We’ve changed our logistics, transportation, supply chain, purchasing, and third party seller processes to prioritize stocking and delivering essential items like household staples, sanitizers, baby formula, and medical supplies. We’re providing a vital service to people everywhere, especially to those, like the elderly, who are most vulnerable. People are depending on us.
I’m not alone in being grateful for the work you are doing. I’ve received hundreds of emails from customers and seen posts on social media thanking you all. Your efforts are being noticed at the highest levels of government, and President Trump earlier this week thanked this team profusely.
Across the world, people are feeling the economic effects of this crisis, and I’m sad to tell you I predict things are going to get worse before they get better. We’re hiring for 100,000 new roles and raising wages for our hourly workers who are fulfilling orders and delivering to customers during this period of stress and turmoil. At the same time, other businesses like restaurants and bars are being forced to shut their doors. We hope people who’ve been laid off will come work with us until they’re able to go back to the jobs they had.
Much of the essential work we do cannot be done from home. We’ve implemented a series of preventative health measures for employees and contractors at our sites around the world — everything from increasing the frequency and intensity of cleaning to adjusting our practices in fulfillment centers to ensure the recommended social distancing guidelines. We are meeting every day, working to identify additional ways to improve on these measures.
We’ve placed purchase orders for millions of face masks we want to give to our employees and contractors who cannot work from home, but very few of those orders have been filled. Masks remain in short supply globally and are at this point being directed by governments to the highest-need facilities like hospitals and clinics. It’s easy to understand why the incredible medical providers serving our communities need to be first in line. When our turn for masks comes, our first priority will be getting them in the hands of our employees and partners working to get essential products to people.
My own time and thinking is now wholly focused on COVID-19 and on how Amazon can best play its role. I want you to know Amazon will continue to do its part, and we won’t stop looking for new opportunities to help.
There is no instruction manual for how to feel at a time like this, and I know this causes stress for everyone. My list of worries right now — like yours I’m sure — is long: from my own children, parents, family, friends, to the safety of you, my colleagues, to those who are already very sick, and to the real harm that will be caused by the economic fallout across our communities.
Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones. I know that we’re going to get through this, together.
According to Bezos, Amazon is a key player in the fight against the pandemic: “We’re providing vital service to people everywhere, especially to those, like the elderly, who are most vulnerable. People are depending on us.” On the one hand, there is the considerable social, even humanitarian importance of the work at Amazon in the crisis – and on the other hand, there are the workers before whom the supposedly continuous logistics chains stop. This is because Amazon has supply problems when it comes to masks and other protective equipment for its own personnel. While we sit at home, the people at Amazon continue to work – in the logistics centres and in the delivery of the Packages by subcontractors, close to close, 24/7 and without any protection against the virus. What most have not noticed is that many Amazon workers have been protesting against Bezos’ work ethic and have made a list of demands.
Amazon Workers International: Common Statement
While the Corona pandemic has already killed thousands of people and will kill many more, Amazon warehouses continue to operate 24/7. Governments around the world order social distancing, but at the same time they force workers to continue to work. Amazon packages flow through cities that, due to the high spread of the virus, have been sealed off from the rest of the world. In countries where the public is prohibited from gathering, Amazon is allowed to operate as a “state within the state”, free to endanger and exploit us, while we continue to work by the thousands in enclosed spaces. Subcontracted truck drivers and couriers – the veins of our global economy – move the virus between warehouses. Uncountable totes pass between worker hands and facilities. In effect, Amazon forces workers to risk infecting each other and then bringing the virus home to our families, allowing for its further spread.
This crisis has heavily affected all workers (not just us at Amazon). Some workers like nurses or supermarket workers don’t even get proper protective gear! The states of emergency supposedly meant to contain the pandemic are also an attempt to criminalize even the smallest protests and pickets. These policies give the government tools to silence workers, who see that Amazon’s irresponsible policies are facilitating the spread of the virus. But even if Amazon forces us to continue working in close proximity, at an ever-increasing tempo of work and often without healthcare protections, last week thousands of us organized in protest. We protested against the company’s attempt to profit from this crisis while putting our health at risk. We protested in Poland and in Spain, we went on strike in Italy, in France and in New York. We showed that it is possible everywhere to fight for our health and our lives and that we won’t stop. Amazon should also know that a wage raise, different from one country to another as if our lives had different prices according to their nationality, will not be enough to buy our health and safety.
We, Amazon workers from across the world, will not remain silent while our bosses‘ greed and governments‘ cowardice endangers us all. We call on workers everywhere to stay safe and practice social distancing, but, at the same time, to organize, protest, and be prepared to fight back!
The immediate closure of Amazon warehouses until this coronavirus pandemic is declared over by the World Health Organization. During this shutdown, Amazon must pay all workers their full salary.
That Amazon give $20 Billion to the public health systems of countries where Amazon has operations.
Until Amazon closes down its warehouses, the company must provide paid sick leave for all workers who are sick, in quarantine, need to care for loved ones, or who need to care of children due to school closures.
Until Amazon closes its warehouses, Amazon workers must receive hazard pay.
Until Amazon closes its warehouses, there must be no write-ups or firings related to Rates or Time Off Task so that workers may prioritize safety over productivity in these hazardous workplace conditions.
Until Amazon closes its warehouses, the company must reduce working time at its warehouses, without reducing wages. Workers need more paid time off to allow us to fulfill our basic needs and to deal with the impact of Corona on our lives.
March 22, 2020, Amazon Workers International