UPDATE: July 8, 2019: "The fact is Amazon offers already what this outside organization is asking for," an Amazon spokesperson told Retail Dive in an emailed statement, citing wages of $16.25 to $20.80 an hour in addition to healthcare and other benefits. "We encourage anyone to compare our pay, benefits, and workplace to other retailers and major employers in the Shakopee community and across the country — and we invite anyone to see for themselves by taking a tour of the facility."
- Amazon workers plan to strike at a fulfillment center in Minnesota during the company's Prime Day sales event, according to a Bloomberg report. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
- The work stoppage at the Shakopee, Minnesota, facility would last six hours on July 15, the first day of the now 48-hour online sale. A "handful" of Amazon engineers also plan to fly to the state to demonstrate with the striking workers, according to Bloomberg.
- Workers at the facility have asked for more permanent jobs and for reduced productivity quotas on fulfillment center quotas. One of the employees organizing the strike told Bloomberg that workers want to discuss what goes into making Amazon's e-commerce business model possible and "put pressure on Amazon to protect us and provide safe, reliable jobs."
Amazon's fulfillment centers are the bowels of the company's e-commerce business, handling constant and massive streams of merchandise, making the company's value proposition of convenient home delivery possible. Nearly every square inch of the facilities evince a corporate obsession with productivity, consistency and problem-solving.
They are also, by many accounts, punishing places to work. Over the years, journalists and employees have described Amazon's fulfillment work as grueling, dystopian, "Hunger Games"-like and potentially dangerous.
If the Minnesota strike occurs, it wouldn't be the first time at the Shakopee facility. Workers at the facility walked out in December, amid the holiday sales rush, to protest working conditions and treatment of employees who were East African immigrants.
According to union activist news site Labor Notes, some workers walked out again in March to demonstrate against a work rate speed-up. One employee described the productivity push at Amazon's fulfillment center as "inhumane" and said, "Everyone feels continuously threatened by the system."
Amazon, however, says that productivity metrics have not changed since November 2018 and that, per policy, 75% of associates have to be already exceeding rate expectations before changes are considered. Those who are underperforming can get coaching to improve. Also according to the company, 90% of associates at the Shakopee facility are employed full-time, and this year 100 temporary workers have been converted to full-time positions.
By the end of 2018, Amazon had 647,500 full-time and part-time employees (the company does not break down the precise mix of full-time and part-time workers in its fulfillment centers). The company indicated in its most recent 10-K that its U.S. employees are not organized or unionized. For years in financial filings, the company has said simply, "We consider our employee relations to be good."
But not all employees agree, and they have found some high-profile allies. Among them is U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who has called for higher pay at Amazon and introduced a bill last year that would tax Amazon and other companies for all federal need-based assistance provided to employees. The bill followed research that Amazon was among the top companies whose employees were enrolled in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). At the time Amazon disputed the notion that its workers are over-represented among SNAP recipients.
The company also entered a rare public clash with Sanders last year. While it took aim at "misleading accusations" from the senator, who describes himself as a "democratic socialist," the company just a few months later announced a $15 minimum wage for all employees, including part-time and seasonal.
This article has been updated to include information from Amazon about its Shakopee fulfillment center.