Tired, Dirty, and Overworked: Inside Amazon’s Holiday Fever
Tyler Hamilton has optimize your every waking minute. From Black Friday to Christmas, five nights a week, he gets out of bed, brushes his teeth, and rushes to his car just before sunset. On his drive to Amazon’s fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minnesota, he stopped at Wendy’s to buy two bourbon bacon sandwiches, two large chili peppers, fries, and a drink.
Hamilton eats burgers as he drives and then starts his shift to sort through inventory of products that arrive just before 5 p.m. At midnight, he took a 30-minute unpaid break and warmed up the chili. When his clock ended at 5:30 a.m., his car was frozen, so Hamilton huddled in the dark until it was warm enough for him to drive home.
“After that, I had to take a shower, because working at Amazon for 12 and a half hours means you get dirty,” he said. “I would drink some juice and maybe watch a little YouTube or something and then pass out.” The next night, he would do it all again.
As holiday shopping peaks this week, Amazon’s two-day Prime shipping remains one of the few options left for desperate shoppers still hoping to order online. It’s a notoriously tiring and demanding time for workers at the company, with the period from Black Friday to Christmas Day known as “peak season”.
During peak times, Amazon requires workers to add full 10- or 11-hour shifts to their already demanding weekly schedule, many employees tell WIRED, and penalizes those who fail to do so. by eliminating one day of unpaid leave for each missed overtime. The company also increased workers’ expected daily productivity rates, as determined by metrics like items packed per hour, workers said.
The four workers interviewed for this section also said that their management talked less about safety and instead emphasized speed during this period. All were involved in organizing colleagues to try to improve working conditions, but no one working at the facility filed a request to form a union.
Amazon spokesman Steve Kelly said that while the holidays are Amazon’s busiest time, “the health and well-being of our employees is our top priority.” Productivity expectations do not increase during peak times, he said, and workers should raise any concerns about the workplace to their managers. “We evaluate performance based on safe and achievable expectations, taking into account time and tenure, co-worker performance, and adherence to safe work practices,” says Kelly.
Amazon has become the dominant online retailer in the US and in countries like the UK and Germany largely through its massive logistics operations. But the company’s facilities have a reputation for harsh working conditions. Amazon is the second-largest private-sector employer in the United States—after Walmart—and have job nearly 800,000 workers in blue-collar “labor” roles by 2021. Workers at a Staten Island Amazon facility won a union vote this year, but the company is disputing the results.
This year’s holiday season comes at a difficult time for both Amazon’s leadership and logistics staff. In 2022, the company’s revenue grows at its slowest pace in more than 20 years, starting in November lay off 10,000 corporate employees. Amazon also lost nearly 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers this year. tell investors, mainly by not replacing those who have left the company, the company has a high rate of replacement in those roles. The company is still hiring more staff to manage the seasonal peak, announcing in October that it will 150,000 more temporary workers to its warehousing and delivery operations.