How Amazon Automatically Tracks And Fires Warehouse Workers For ‘Productivity’

from The Verge

Amazon’s fulfillment centers are the engine of the company — massive warehouses where workers track, pack, sort, and shuffle each order before sending it on its way to the buyer’s door.

Critics say those fulfillment center workers face strenuous conditions: workers are pressed to “make rate,” with some packing hundreds of boxes per hour, and losing their job if they don’t move fast enough. “You’ve always got somebody right behind you who’s ready to take your job,” says Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and a prominent Amazon critic.

Documents obtained by The Verge show those productivity firings are far more common than outsiders realize. In a signed letter last year, an attorney representing Amazon said the company fired “hundreds” of employees at a single facility between August of 2017 and September 2018 for failing to meet productivity quotas. A spokesperson for the company said that, over that time, roughly 300 full-time associates were terminated for inefficiency.

More here.

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26 Responses to How Amazon Automatically Tracks And Fires Warehouse Workers For ‘Productivity’

  1. Cameron Lindley April 26, 2019 at 5:29 pm #

    It is hard to blame companies like Amazon for pushing maximum efficiency. At what cost does this level of efficiency operate at though? For people like Bezos, it is impossible to think about the implications on people’s lives this efficiency model has, and understandably so. That is just how business works at such a large scale. Although I do not know how exactly this productivity tracker works, I think it might be worth a gentle probe to ensure its fairness to employees. If the employees were truly slacking, then these firings are justified and there is nothing else to be done or said. Amazon did raise their average salaries fairly significantly, therefore the company might be operating within their limits. Generally, people who earn more money have to work harder, and that is why they make more money.
    I am sure that working in a fulfillment center is tedious and exhausting, as workers have reported 60 hour work weeks and routine ambulance calls, but that is why Amazon raised their pay-scale, to adjust for what they expect out of their employees. I do not personally think the rate at which the scale was raised justifies such strenuous work, partially because I strongly dislike manual labor and thus sympathize with the fulfillment workers, but at the same time, Amazon wants to turn the highest profit possible.
    I think a gentle probe would be a wise idea, as corporations are no stranger to unjust work conditions with inadequate pay. Solely from the workers side, this does seem rather unfair and the hours should be reduced, but there is no way to know just how reliable they are. The working force are also no strangers to exaggeration and complacency. Not that they haven’t been subject to unfair conditions before, and continue to be, there are just multiple perspectives that must be considered to make a decision in terms of who is at fault. Or it could be that no one is at fault, that is fairly unlikely though based on what has happened in this area previously.

  2. Devero McDougal II April 26, 2019 at 5:38 pm #

    Amazon has grown to be one of the worlds largest companies but with a company that large it requires a great number of employees for them to maintain productivity. Employees must track, pack, sort, and shuffle packages before delivering them to millions of buyer’s doors. Not only do the workers have to deal with strenuous working conditions they must also keep a very fast pace otherwise they might be fired and replaced with someone who can keep pace. After reading this article it did open my eyes a little bit more about amazon. I have friends who have worked for amazon in the past and they have told me that it is one of the hardest jobs that you can have. I have been told that you have to move fast while working in hard strenuous working conditions. I have also been told that there are people waiting to take your job if you are not meeting their standards. I feel this not a good thing asking people to keep a fast pace for a job like this that does not have the best working conditions is very unfortunate to hear. There should be a focus on having the working conditions for employees as comfortable as possible for each and every worker. Also, workers should not have to constantly fear that their jobs will be taken form them if they do not meet these unfair conditions. I think that amazon should look into making working conditions better because people will not be able to produce at an efficient level, they do not have safe and comfortable working conditions. They can also add more warehouses if productivity is the issue this way they can hire more people and deliver more goods quicker because now they have more people working. I feel that if amazon can make these changes they will be able to attract more people to work for them and they can grow their company even quicker compared to if they keep things the way they are now.

  3. Richard Gudino April 26, 2019 at 5:58 pm #

    I am a big proponent of automating job so that the workforce and our output is greater and ends up benefitting us and our GDP. If we can find a way to use all our resources to maximum efficiency than we have a growing economy an a better economy. So if technology can help improve our workforce I am all for it, lets go full steam ahead. That being said there are some jobs or task that cannot be left up to a machine. A machine being born out of code will only ever see us as code or just a number on another spreadsheet. Amazon as I have been learning isn’t the enterprise that many buy from everyday that is all good. I feel that a persons performance cannot simply be brought down to a just a number that when brought down means that they are to be fired and left without employment. Everyone has bad days we all understand that, we have all struggled to get up from bed and find the energy to make it to work. A machine should not be monitoring employees, it devalues the workers and creates a hostile environment on top of the already terrible working conditions reported from these centers. There needs to be a human being that monitors these people, someone they can interact with that makes the people working feel like they are being criticized fairly. A human can empathize with the other workers and understand that one bad day where they didn’t produce what they were supposed to is going to terminate their income. It is sickening to think that because there is a line of people waiting for a job opportunity that can replace anyone that does not perform. It again just devalues humans like they are only another replaceable cog in the amazon machine. Now granted with a human being there still exist bias and discrimination. In this regard a machine may be able to do better than a human worker, however as we have seen machines aren’t always free of bias or discrimination. There are still countless examples where a machine forms a sort of bias because the data that is being input into them is from corrupted data. The cynic in me is saying that it doesn’t matter if it’s a machine or man criticizing the work of the employees there will always be a problem, only with a man we have laws and regulations that can combat the racism or bias of another worker or employer. That isn’t the case with machines, we are yet to address the problems that all these machines cause for others.

  4. Rachel Leto April 26, 2019 at 7:26 pm #

    Today, it is hard to find a job. Amazon is making it near impossible to keep a full-time job there. They have been rapidly firing employees for not keeping up with their productivity standards. They are being monitored by robots to see how long they take breaks or go to the bathroom and if they take too long, they are given a warning and eventually could be fired if they do it too often. Their standards are nearly impossible to meet and maintain, they want them to be human robots and are ignoring the basic functions of humans that need to be met, like going to then bathroom when your body needs to go. Many employees have complained to Amazon about their requirements and how they do not even allow breaks for prayer.
    The fact that people are being fired for not meeting those requirements is a little ridiculous. It is not like they are purposefully doing no work and are expecting to get paid to do nothing, they just want to go to the bathroom. It seems more like a prison than it is a job. Constantly being monitored by these robots is like a guard watching you to make sure you stay in your cell. We were discussing in class how they are only keeping people in Amazon because robots do not have the precision to pick things up yet. Once that is perfected or can be, I fully believe that they will fire all of the actual people that they have left and make it completely robot run. I would be miserable knowing that I have to go to a job like that and have to be worried every day that I would get fired and have no source of income. There is no way that I would believe that an Amazon employee would be happy with their job and enjoy going to it.

  5. Jon Sozer April 26, 2019 at 7:50 pm #

    Over the past year, I’ve read a lot on different social medias and discussion platforms about the difficulty and stress related to working with Amazon and other delivery companies. I have a friend that works with UPS, and he was telling me about the strict hours – his work began at 3 am and went until noon, so he was more or less a vampire throughout the past summer – and the intensive labor. I’ve only read it to be more strict, more demanding, and more stressful working with Amazon. The problem with working for such a large company is that they are carefully monitoring their workforce in order to determine which lagging branch needs culling, which is well within their rights. The problem inherent in this is that the workforce that lags behind the greatest consists of humans. Obvious as it might sound, humans just cannot perform with the consistence and rigor of robots. Yes, creative capital might be important for Amazon, but the workers on the bottom of the corporate totem poll only contribute with intensive labor and stressful hours, all of which are completable – at greater efficiency – with the help of machinery. In the case that a worker starts to lag behind their colleagues, or begins to burn out, then Amazon has thousands of potential employees ready at a moment’s notice. The mentality of “I must do all of my work with no breaks, no hesitation, and no moment to catch a breath” within the workers leads to mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion, and can definitely lead to serious consequences. Such an environment is toxic to people, but individuals in positions of necessity do what they must to provide for themselves and their family, leading to the absolute superior position Amazon is in with this situation, and overall constitutes a losing battle for the laborer.

  6. Tyler Graham April 26, 2019 at 7:52 pm #

    Retailers such as Amazon obviously have an interest in maximizing profit. Underpaying and overworking employees, as well as the recent trial of drones for delivery are all in an effort to reduce costs anywhere possible. We can’t blame them for wanting as much profit as possible – they’re a business, and that’s what business is for. But at the same time, Amazon did raise their warehouse wages to $15 – a much needed change. Amazon warehouse workers are no strangers to awful conditions. Workers have reported passing out, heat strokes, holding in urine for unreasonable amounts of time, and other workers being carried out with stretchers. They’re the American sweatshops. Now news comes out that they regularly fire employees for lack of productivity/efficiency. Moreso this is done automatically, so there is a way of tracking it. I’m unsure of how they would track something like that, and I question whether “productive” is based on the average productivity or a set number. This is something that should be looked into. There is absolutely nothing wrong with firing employees for a lack of productivity, but there could be discriminatory reasons beneath them. A warehouse manager with a hatred towards those of other colors could easily then fire someone for “not being productive” when in reality that is not the reason. As much as I personally disagree with a system like this in place – it is perfectly acceptable for Amazon to implement it, so long as there is a probe launched to ensure it is effective and true in its use.

  7. Doran Abdi April 26, 2019 at 7:55 pm #

    For me, this seems to be the history of the work world. Employers, through the use of technology, are now being able to monitor their employees better than they every have been able to. In this case, Amazon has found a way to ensure that their base-level employees in the warehouses are performing at a rate that is entirely efficient and effective. Amazon is one of the largest companies in the world and is expanding and growing at an exceptional rate. For them to not create an initiative or a strong, solid stance on ensuring that the employees that cannot be constantly observed and babysat would be a terrible move for the efficiency of their company. From an entirely business standpoint, this seems smart and innovative from Amazon, but from a humanitarian and benevolent view, this seems to be a very demoralizing and quite disheartening move from Amazon. While it will be able to ensure that Amazon’s employees are functioning at a perfect rate especially through the uses of new technology, it can incredibly hurt the average worker who is usually the one who is working in these Amazon warehouses. Depression, anxiety, and mental illnesses have already been higher and higher because of the introduction of smartphones and technology into teenagers and growing youth. With this new technique and technology being introduced by Amazon, I find that it will only cause more pressure and anxiety onto their workers. It is in human nature to make mistakes and not be completely perfect; these strict guidelines set by Amazon can be looked at as being harsh and unreasonable based on the nature of humans. I think Amazon should be able to recognize that the modern job world is more competitive and harsh than it has ever been, and to create an environment that could be more hostile and intensive could change the job world completely. With that being said, I can still understand why Amazon would do a move like this as it allows for their company to become as efficient as possible and make as much money as they possibly can (which is all that matters for these corporations at the end of the day).

  8. Edward Holzel April 26, 2019 at 8:41 pm #

    I totally understand companies trying to maximize profit by using robots. The American society, during the span of my life, has seen people as a cost rather than a benefit. Amazon is removing perfectly good works that work hard and do everything humanly possible. However, Amazon is still firing them because their productivity does not offset its cost. Where is some form of compassion and understanding? These people fired are not highly skilled and are going to struggle to find another job. This does not only just apply to Amazon; other all corporations nowadays are trying to get away with the least amount of people possible.
    It is ridiculous how much money has power over people. Yes, you can make more money by firing half the workers and replacing them with robots. What good does that do for America and the world? Congratulations, you just took the wages that supported countless families away just to save the company a quick buck. People in America need to understand that people are people. The CEO of a company may never even meet 90% of his company, but he makes decisions that influence those people and their families. People are numbers to the CEO. Big businesses take away the comradery that small companies have. Big businesses are only worried about that bottom line. Companies are buying and merging with the competition just to ensure the top make their buck. All the people at the bottom of the food chain get fired in those situations and are often without jobs for a while. Where is the security for the little guy? Trump has shown favor to big businesses already. The little guys are getting fired and are struggling to find jobs in a market that is trying to replace them with machines and minimizing their job market.

  9. Divyaa Sarin April 27, 2019 at 7:38 pm #

    After reading this article, it comes with no surprise that Amazon fires workers for not being productive enough. The idea of timing workers based on their productivity seems quite stressful to the worker. However, to the employer, this is the only way to see if the workers are using every minute towards benefitting the company. The idea that everyone’s replaceable is true for huge Fortune 500 companies, like Amazon. If an employee doesn’t do their job, the company will quickly replace them. Thousands of people would love to work for Amazon since it is one of the leading successful companies today. However, after working at Amazon, employees have mentioned there are “strenuous conditions.” Sometimes workers are just not fit for the high demanding working conditions.

    Personally, I would never want to work at Amazon due to these outrageous working conditions. The idea of getting timed every second puts a lot of anxiety and pressure on the individual. It is like someone is always watching them. In a way, employees must have signed contracts allowing Amazon to watch over them while they were at work. This means employees already knew that they were coming into a job that was so demanding. In a way, I don’t think they can complain, since they knew what would occur. However, personally, after reading these experiences, I wouldn’t want to be in a work environment like this!

    Since Amazon is extremely successful despite these working conditions, other companies must look up to them. There may be a possibility that other companies may mimic Amazon, especially their harsh working conditions on employee’s, in order to become successful. This would be a nightmare! If every company were to mimic Amazon, no one would want to work! Unemployment would increase. Therefore, I think that it is safe that Amazon continues their working conditions because the seem to be going well for them. The employees know what they are getting into, so they shouldn’t complain. Lastly, companies should not mimic Amazon!

  10. Abdulrafay Amir April 30, 2019 at 7:46 pm #

    With automation becoming more and more prominent in our society today, it is no surprise that companies are pushing for maximum efficiency in their attempts to gain more revenue and reduce any unnecessary costs. The situation with Amazon is very tricky to handle because while it is true that they are entitled to trying to make their company more efficient and reduce labor costs, the lives of all these employees are definitely at stake while working these jobs. With Amazon beginning to track the productivity of their workers, the tension within the employees is beginning to become a problem. The reason I say this is because Amazon is using Artificial Intelligence that monitors every second that an Amazon employee takes to do their job during their shifts. Any slip up, or breaks taken by the employee and it will be monitored and recorded by the AI. This raises many red flags as we are leaving it up to an AI to keep track of the actions of an employee and it means taking out the real-life situations that can lead to circumstances where it looks like the employee is “slacking off”. This system in my opinion does not do the proper job in interpreting the efficiency of an employee or determine valuable qualities that someone can bring to a job position within their company. I believe that Amazon’s obsession with “perfection” or “excellence” will eventually lead to their downfall.

  11. Peter Honczaryk May 3, 2019 at 10:23 am #

    It did not surprise me one bit that amazon does this to their employees. I have worked at a warehouse for almost two years now in every condition: hot, cold, and mild. The only thing they care about is the productivity of its employees. The first warehouse I worked at was at UPS where they only paid 10 dollars. Some people might say that is great since it is two dollars above the minimum wage but if you actually go there and realize the immense work load, the pressure you get from your managers to move faster, and the way they expect the best people they have like me to push ourselves to be even faster so that we can help the ones who are slower is crazy. I already put in a great amount of effort to what i was doing and it was never enough. I would put in 100%, someone else only puts in 70%, the managers expect me to be able to handle that extra 30% the other person is not doing. So I told them to shove it and moved to FedEx where they pay more money for doing the exact same job. I’m still one of their best workers there to this day and like at UPS they also expect me to take more of a work load because others cant handle it. This always angers me since its not like I will get paid more for doing more. I can do more work, someone else does less, and we both get paid the same. There is nothing fair about that. There have been people that the company has gotten rid of now because of their inefficiency and productivity. They have a strict three strikes where after three strikes, you get fired. The only way to get rid of a strike is by working a straight 3 months without a single warning. Overall it makes sense to me that amazon fires the amount of people they do. They pay even more than FedEx does and they expect people to work for it all the same and everyone has to pull their weight and more. The “numbers” meaning the amount of packages dealt that day is the only thing the company cares about. They hire and fire as fast we have to go through the packages.

  12. Raymond Wilkinson IV May 3, 2019 at 7:24 pm #

    Amazon is one of largest companies and still growing. Amazon has now 288 million square feet of warehouses, offices, retail stores, and data centers. With this sheer amount of space under their control it would be hard for them to control efficiency of all of their workers. Amazon currently employs 575,000 employees around the world. Amazon sells everything from books, to music, to clothes, to household supplies, to flooring. Bezos’ new system of maintaining efficiency in the work place has recently come under fire. Amazon has instituted a system to automatically track and fire workers for productivity. I personally see nothing wrong with this. The conditions may be a little harsh but the idea behind this system makes sense. There is no possible way for Amazons founder Jeff Bezos to maintain and monitor productivity in all of his warehouses, stores, and offices. This new system allows him to be everywhere at all time without doing anything. At the end of the day Amazon is one of the most successful business in the world and they must maintain a specific productivity rate to stay at such a successful stance. Amazon could always replace these workers with robots (they are probably in the process of it) but they provide these jobs to people and give people a chance to make money. Amazon has also raised it pay for all employees, now I’m not saying this makes the strenuous working conditions okay. But people have to understand Amazon requires this amount of efficiency being that it is the business that it is. If they can’t handle this stress and work they simply shouldn’t work for amazon.

  13. Kevin Metz May 3, 2019 at 8:12 pm #

    Amazon is one of the most successful companies of this generation, staring from only selling books on the internet, it has grown tremendously into the well known “whatever you need” corporation. This article discusses how Amazon fires an abundance of employees due to their productivity in their warehouses. A well-known amazon critic Stacy Mitchell describes these terminations in a very negative manner throughout this writing. She says that amazon is essentially heartless and treats their employees as robots fighting for a spot since, “You’ve always got somebody right behind you who’s ready to take your job.” This is taken way to negatively and is not giving Amazon the credit they deserve. What is the big deal with having people in this world have to actually work to gain their pay? This quote is just showing that Amazon is so popular that their will always be someone wanting to work for them and ready to be hired if they terminate an unproductive employee. To me, this is not an issue, but a great success for Amazon. Let us look at even the bigger picture, wages should not just be handed out because you show up. Take Professor Jack Shannon’s business law class for example. Sure you can show up to class and play the part, but if you aren’t ready to work hard and actually prove you want to be there, you will fail and that’s that. He does not set you up for failure because it is a challenging class, he shows you that you actually have to work for things in this world and not everything can be handed to you like a participation trophy. Amazon has this same mindset when terminating employees for a lack of productivity. They were hired to advance the companies profit and that is that harsh truth. If they made their quotas and put the required time and effort in, they won’t be fired, but if they wont work for what they are paid to due, then they will be replaced, and I believe every business should work this way as well.

  14. Brandon Cassidy May 30, 2019 at 9:07 am #

    Amazon is a company that has had rapid and sustainable growth for many years and one of those reasons is because of productivity. In this article the author, Colin Lecher, points out that “Amazon’s system tracks the rate of each individual associates productivity and automatically generates any warnings or terminations regarding quality or productivity without input from supervisors”. This means that amazon is easily able to measure the productivity of each worker which is helping Amazon maximize efficiency. This may sound extremely harsh, but I know that Amazon offers competitive pay which you will only earn if you work hard for it. If you choose not to work hard for the pay, then maybe Amazon is not the best company for you to work for. This concept of a productivity measure should not be a surprise to anyone since companies are always looking for ways to maximize productivity. The only thing different about what Amazon does versus other companies is that they have found a way to easily measure productivity using computers.

    Some people may not agree with what Amazon is doing and they may see Amazon as a company that promotes strenuous work conditions. It may be true that Amazon makes you “work hard” and they measure you based on your productivity, but this is all justified. There are no laws stopping Amazon from doing this and they still offer competitive pay. Everyone needs to realize that in order to be the best at something you must work hard at it. If you do not like what Amazon is doing here, you have every right to stop buying from them and you have every right to find a job at a different company as well.

  15. Brandon Medici May 30, 2019 at 3:07 pm #

    Amazon is one of the largest companies in the world, so it is completely understandable for them to want maximum proficiency for their company and that means that they had to amp the productivity of their employees. So, it makes sense that if an employee falls behind the quota for productivity, they would be terminated because if the employees are falling behind in their work, then they are costing Amazon money because if they don’t get a certain amount of their orders by the end of the work day, then they would be losing out on the potential money they can make. I find it horrible that in order for employees to make the specified quotas, they have to face strenuous conditions like working at a fast pace to keep the productivity rate, working long hours a day to meet the quota, and having a system track them and monitor the time they take for a break, and reports to the higher ups if employees are taking too much timer off for a break, and the result would end in the employee’s termination since they are not making the quota. Lastly, reports shown that between August of 2017 and September of 2018, approximately 300 employees were terminated for inefficiency, because they couldn’t keep up with the quota.
    I agree with Cameron Lindley that working in the fulfillment center can be boring and tiresome after working long hours in the same routine, but Amazon did raise their pay-scale to accommodate them for working to the company’s new standards. I also, don’t believe that the amount the employees are getting paid is worth the strenuous work because I don’t like pushing myself to the brink of death working for money that wouldn’t justify the amount of work that has to be done in a fast pace. I agree with Rachel Leto that it is kind of ridiculous that employees are being fired for not meeting the requirements that the company set because Amazon is expecting too much from their employees and are terminating them for the smallest things if it doesn’t meet their requirements. Lastly, I also believe that it is ridiculous that the employees are being monitored by robots because the employees would feel like they are prisoners and can’t do anything but work and not get reported on.

  16. Edelyn Gil-Uribe May 31, 2019 at 8:39 pm #

    Having studied Amazon for my Introduction to Business class I learned a few key things. To begin with, Amazon is a large known company who statistically keeps up to date with how well they deliver. They are a company who unfortunately gives its employees ultimatums as well ad treating them unfairly. I completely understand the concept of meeting the company’s quota, but to what extent? Under what conditions do these employees have to keep suffering in order to meet the needs of the company and consumer needs. The matter of fact here is that no one really wants to speak on the big elephant in the room. The amount of warehouses that Amazon has all over the country and employees are being fired. As I read it stated that an entire facility was fired due to the lack of failing at the company’s productivity quotas.

    What I learned however is that as an employee once you put yourself in a position of being controlled and monitored, it is very hard to change the conditions at work. There is no such reason for these employees to have to endure such a hard labor, and receive termination as a result. These are hard working people who have children and people they have to care for, or just themselves and are treated like they are nothing because a quota isn’t being met. The amount of money they earn as well is nothing compared to how much they go through on a daily basis, just so that the company can look good. The another key thing I learned is making sure that your productivity rate in any company has to stay consistent. That the level of productivity should never fall behind especially on such a large scale.With that being said, I understand the importance and significance of the quota that the company is trying to uphold but to what extent? In this situation the facility could have been put through training and conferences on how they could improve on the productivity rate. Irrational decisions like this one to put out so many people, without finding a way to help them first is terrifying. Finding tactics instead of dismissing is what they should do with all the hard work they put in.
    To end my part of the discussion, I would like to emphasis the importance of knowing how to better your employees and facility as a whole. The CEO nor the shareholders due the amount of work one employee does in one day. They should consider the strenous conditions their employees go through and pay them a higher wage instead of such a low wage.

  17. Juan Gonzalez June 7, 2019 at 10:41 pm #

    In my opinion, I believe there two perspectives to take under consideration when whilst reading through this blog. One would feel a sense of compassion and sympathy for those who are losing employment periodically on such a small scale. It is hard not to empathize because of the negative tone it has. This article made me feel as though Amazon was harsh and unfair. The line which reads,

    “In a signed letter last year, an attorney representing Amazon said the company fired “hundreds” of employees at a single facility between August of 2017 and September 2018 for failing to meet productivity quotas. A spokesperson for the company said that, over that time, roughly 300 full-time associates were terminated for inefficiency” (Lecher).

    From my perspective, this signed letter paints Amazon as the villain in this situation. The statement simply lacks emotion or compassion. As if Bezos could care less about Amazon’s employees, giving the message that they are expendable. But this is simply not the case here. Although it may be a harsh pill to swallow, employees can be replaced. This should have been foreseen giving how Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer and prominent cloud service, provider. They have to be number driven company to maintain their reputation of having the product that you want and getting it delivered when you desire. Delivery times can range anywhere from standard shipping to Amazon 2-day prime shipping and in New York within a couple of hours. The underlying truth is that Amazon is the very first company to offer a generous minimum wage to its employees. According to an article titled, “Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos challenges Rival Retailers To Change Their Minimum Wage, Too” by Sarah Perez states,”Amazon currently offers it’s entry-level employees a minimum wage of “$15 per hour in response to the ongoing criticism around pay disparity and poor working conditions. Bezos suggested other retailers should follow Amazon’s lead, or push it to do even better” (Perez). Because of this hefty pay upgrade from the federal minimum wage holding at $7.25 Amazon has the bargaining power to maximize efficiency. They have set the market up to be the only retail employer solely based on their pay rate. If employees are not able to keep up with the standards and expectations of Amazon’s employment and efficiency model then they always have “someone behind you ready to take your job”(Lecher). Keeping an eye on its efficiency and constantly wanting to improve upon it is what allows Amazon to hold its ranking at the world’s largest retail and prominent cloud service provided. This does not make Amazon the bad guy, this the reason they’re the big guys.

  18. Edward S September 15, 2019 at 12:20 am #

    Perhaps one of the issues with the Fair Labor Standards Act is that it does not include any provisions regarding measuring productivity. This potentially sets the stage for companies such as Amazon to set very rigorous productivity demands on its workers. Several members of the blog have expressed concerns about defining and measuring acceptable productivity such as Devero and Rachel. These Amazon warehouse workers however are not considered exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act and it should therefore be recognized that these workers have less negotiating power/strength compared to non-exempt FLSA staff such as management and professional level staff. Amazon has clearly organized itself as a very efficient machine that has been receiving criticism for some of its labor practices. In addition businesses have generally moved towards the direction of mergers and acquisitions with the formation of oligopolies in industries like technology. As a result companies such as Amazon have maximized economies of scale and command considerable influence.
    What also cannot be ignored is the fact that there has been a staggering decline in United States unions and this has substantially decreased the bargaining power of workers. Fifty years ago 30% of the American workforce belonged to a union and it has since decreased to 10% (Bui, 2015). In addition US management has over the years come to view unions as a nemesis. In comparison unions have much more strength in Europe where in countries like Germany, unions are considered a part of the culture itself. Strikes organized against some of Amazon’s plants in Germany have actually lead to increases in the number of break rooms as well as increases in overtime pay (Wingfield and Eddie 2013). If the same emphasis on unionization was brought to the states, working conditions would improve.
    Bui, Q. (2015). 50 Years of Shrinking Union Membership, In One Map. NPR. Retrieved from
    https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2015/02/23/385843576/50-years-of-shrinking-union-membership-in-one-map

    Wingfield, N., Eddy, M. (2013,August).In Germany, Union Culture Clashes with Amazon’s Labor Practices. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/05/business/workers-of-amazon-divergent.html

  19. Kevin Dougherty September 18, 2019 at 12:21 pm #

    This article is about amazons fulfillment centers and their systems and rules in place for the workers productivity. Amazon has advanced systems setup in the warehouses that track the productivity of the employees there and will actually send out warnings to them if their productivity gets too low. All of this will happen automatically and the supervisors who know the workers will have no say in the warnings. Amazon said the company fired “Hundreds” of employees at a single fulfillment center between the dates of august 2017 and September 2018, and on average they fire about 10% of their staff annually.
    The title of the article caught my attention for a few reasons. As a past employee of The Home Depot, a similar type of warehouse environment as these amazon centers, I do not like the idea of them having systems to track employee productivity especially to the extent in which they do. Having worked in a warehouse job where I moved and sorted packages and freight, I know first-hand that there are some people that do not do what they should all the time. I understand why Amazon wants to have and set up these systems to track productivity, however I don’t think it’s fair to the employees.
    For starters the article said “some employees said they even avoid bathroom breaks to keep their time in line with expectations”. Regardless of the industry employees should never have to worry about going to the bathroom due to productivity or work reasons. Secondly this fully automated system cuts out the human interaction, which is important in work situations. These supervisors while able to override the process still don’t have a say in the original warning. I believe that the human interaction is a huge part of companies and employees. This system that cuts interaction off only looks at the employees as numbers, and while they may be more productive I do not believe that this is a good system to have.
    This article actually relates to another article from theguardian.com which focus’s more on the employees of amazon. It is an article from an employee about the treatment at amazon. Overall the article talks about the mistreatment of workers, how they are seen as disposable, and the stress of working there. These productivity systems are mentioned as a big cause of the stresses of working there and I found it interesting to hear from the side of an employee. Overall while I understand the desire for productivity systems I do not like them and would not like to work for a company with systems and policies like these in place.

  20. Stephen Hoffman September 19, 2019 at 10:39 am #

    This article is yet another indication of how technology works too quickly for the law to catch up to it, leaving serious holes in a system that can be exploited by tech giants for additional profit. In the past, the only way to check whether your employee was playing solitaire at their desk instead of doing work was to actually go to their workstation and speak to them. As long as their work and assignments were completed, they were presumed to be safe and able to use their time how they wished because they lacked sufficient oversight. Amazon is showing that this time has quickly passed, as they are now able to have complete supervision of their employees at all times, using these robots to monitor their productivity. This system makes it easy to draw comparisons to the labor movements of the early 20th century, as this system brings about similar consequences. The supervisors at one of the largest companies in the entire world now has the power to track every movement their employees make, making the slightest slip up at work a potential source for getting fired. The conditions at Amazon have become so bad that people will avoid taking breaks to go to the bathroom or take a drink of water, as it will have an adverse effect on their production numbers and could cause them to get fired. The sheer number of employees that Amazon has fired already as a result of “productivity” is staggering, as the article states roughly 10% of the labor force was let go in one year.
    One of the worst elements of this story is that the workers are not being supervised by other workers, but rather being constantly watched and tracked by robots. The workers feel like they themselves are being treated as automated machines that have no consciousness or emotions and are left feeling like they are second-rate employees as their bosses are not even people. This change is damaging and concerning, as increased automation presents potential challenges to job growth, employee satisfaction and customer service. One of the worst elements of this unfortunate reality is that there are no legal regulations concerning the employee supervision through the usage of robots or using productivity counts as an accountability tracker. When there is no regulation in the field, Amazon will continue to exploit the loophole, making it even easier for them to use labor in any method they choose. Legal regulation of this working environment is a necessary step we need to take to ensure that employees are being treated fairly and given proper working conditions.

  21. Tyler Abline September 19, 2019 at 1:43 pm #

    While I understand where Amazon is coming from in terms of wanting to monitor productivity, they are not approaching it the right way in my opinion. Happy employees often make better employees, and if I was put in a position where my every action was monitored by my employer I wouldn’t be happy. Instead of focusing on the productivity of the workers they should be looking at results. If an employee finishes their assignment quickly they should be allowed to slack off a little bit. If the results are still good, which they clearly are for Amazon, there should be no issue. Amazon is far overstepping their boundaries and while there should be no legal ramifications the employees should stand up for themselves and put their foot down.
    If Amazon continues to do this my only hope is that other companies do not follow suit and their workers start to find alternate employment with Amazon’s competitors. This will force Amazon to adapt and hopefully take away this new system of monitoring productivity. If Amazon’s competitors follow Amazon’s lead and also start monitoring their employees in a similar manner, then the entire industry will become a much worse place to work. If this new system of monitoring employees is not shut down soon, I fear that it will become the new norm in the industry and it may start spreading to other fields. The issue with technology is that it isn’t always a good thing, and if working becomes micro managed it’s going to become much worse for the employee while becoming much better for the company. Amazon is successful enough as it is, they do not need to force their workers to be even more productive than they already are.

  22. Sarah I September 20, 2019 at 7:45 pm #

    According to a Linkedin Article, Amazon was recently named one of the most desirable places to work in 2019 (https://blog.aboutamazon.com/working-at-amazon/amazon-recognized-as-a-linkedin-top-company-in-nine-countries). However, it seems as though the front-line employees don’t see it that way. Amazon may seem desirable from a corporate job perspective, but working in a warehouse is a completely different environment. Going into work everyday and being scared to get fired due to productivity isn’t the best culture to spread throughout your company. I find it shocking that a company that makes billions of dollars a year doesn’t feel any sympathy or compassion for their employees. I understand that it may be a “cut-throat” industry, but workers are still people, not just a number on a board. The Verge article mentions that Amazon compensates its employees at a high rate because they are working hard to meet such high standards (https://www.theverge.com/2019/4/25/18516004/amazon-warehouse-fulfillment-centers-productivity-firing-terminations0). If we dig a little deeper into this, we would find that the average Amazon Warehouse Worker makes $15 an hour (https://www.glassdoor.com/Hourly-Pay/Amazon-Hourly-Pay-E6036.htm0. As most of us already know, minimum wage in New York is $15 an hour. This just goes to show that they are not really compensating employees at a higher rate than any other company, at least in the tri-state area. Individuals working in the tri-state area are expecting to be paid anywhere between $10-15 an hour. The real question is: is Amazon compensating their employees enough?(https://www.labor.ny.gov/workerprotection/laborstandards/workprot/minwage.shtm)

    Another question is, are Amazon’s standards unreasonable? We know from the Wells Fargo Fraud, forcing employees to meet unreasonable standards prompts them to do irrational things. Amazon employees are scared to even go to the bathroom because they may risk losing their jobs over that. As a student, it’s scary to think that people live in fear every day they go to work. If Amazon treats their employees this way, just imagine how other companies treat their employees. I agree with Tyler Abline’s comment above when he says, “If Amazon continues to do this my only hope is that other companies do not follow suit and their workers start to find alternate employment with Amazon’s competitors.” I agree with this statement because as someone entering the workforce, I hope to be treated like a human and that my company will care for my well being. If Amazon continues to keep their high quotes, the rate of employee turnover can increase significantly and shed a bad light on the company. It is important to remember that employees are people, not robots. I think that Amazon should re-evaluate their standards and their compensation because if not, this could destroy their reputation in the long run.

  23. Connor G September 25, 2019 at 8:09 pm #

    Amazon’s use of computerized tracking of employees is relatively new and a very efficient way to track each employee. The computers, however, are given the power to make decisions such as issuing warnings and firing warehouse associates for failing to meet productivity quotas. This means that workers who do not meet the quota of boxes they have to package, they can be terminated. There are a lot of analytics that go into the decision to utilize such a computer tracking system in order to maintain order speed and efficiency among the distribution centers.

    This system of tracking employees via computers has defenders and critics. The defenders argue that the system keeps productivity up and consistently ensures that Amazon’s orders go out on time and to the right destination. Although this is a very true statement and helps to keep Amazon as one of the most efficient delivery services for its products, this new system can be viewed as unethical by opponents. To some, as mentioned in the article, the employees are being treated as though they are robots in that they are being evaluated and tracked by a robot themselves.

    The double-edged sword of setting and keeping quotas across all distribution centers has led to some issues with Amazon. East African employees in Minnesota have logged complaints that there is no time for prayer during a work shift. This could potentially create a legal issue in that Amazon is not respecting the religious beliefs of its employees by not adequately providing for enough prayer time. Although I am not well-versed in employment law, I feel as though a potential response by Amazon to such a claim in the future is that if an employee moves fast enough (at a realistic work pace), then there will be enough time for prayer.

    I personally believe that although unethical in a sense that it is difficult for some to use the bathroom or pray during a shift, the system to track warehouse associates across Amazon is revolutionary and vital in managing to ensure a fast and efficient delivery. With such a high warehouse employee turnover for just productivity concerns alone, Amazon is slowly but surely finding the right people to staff in their distribution centers, thus ensuring efficiency.

  24. Victoria Balka September 26, 2019 at 10:20 pm #

    Amazon is a major company that has been caught often firing their employees for not reaching their production goals. This presents many problems with the way that the company is ran because they are rapidly going through employees and anyone can be fired at any moment. More importantly, they are being fired based off of the computer system deciding that they are not being productive enough, not their supervisors deciding that they are not being productive enough. In one year about 300 employees were fired from Baltimore alone due to lack of productivity. That is a large amount of people losing their jobs due to a computer deciding that they are not working hard enough. Also, these employees are afraid to take bathroom breaks because if they go too long between scanning packages, the computer system will mark them as taking too long of a break and they do not want to lose their jobs. This is causing labor disputes since a Baltimore employee filed a complaint about the system. In order to fic this problem Amazon should not simply fire people for not being as productive as they want and try to find another solution for them.
    I believe that Amazon should find a solution for this problem. First of all, I believe that they should allow their employees to take bathroom breaks and breaks every so often to rest. If the employees are allowed to use the bathroom and take breaks since they are not worried about how they are feeling, it may increase their productivity overall. Also, in order to solve this problem, Amazon should have the supervisors watch over the employees and decide when they are found being unproductive. Removal of the computer system deciding if they are being unproductive allows the supervisors to have control of the employees and use their time to see if an employee is being unproductive more fairly than a computer can decide. Also, since the supervisors are also human, they may be able to understand why these employees may not be as productive as the computer is expecting them. Amazon’s terminating of employees is not okay and is causing stress in the workplace since the employees are always worried about getting fired.

  25. Nicole Shubaderov September 30, 2019 at 8:10 pm #

    As consumers, our main goal is to buy the product from whatever distributor or manufacturer we want and to get the product as fast as possible. A perfect example of a company that prides itself with its quick processing and delivery is Amazon. With a prime subscription, many of the times what is offered to consumers for shipping is free two-day shipping. As a consumer, we do not think about the effect that this has on those people who work for Amazon in the warehouses for distribution. According to the article written by Alex Castro, the fulfillment center workers face strenuous conditions where they are being pressured to have a quota of a minimum amount of boxes being filled per hour, or else they will be fired. As a large company, they do not care who they fire and who they keep because there is always a demand to work, especially when Amazon offers a minimum wage of $15 an hour. But what this does for the Amazon employees is that they fear of making mistakes and wasting time during their work shifts. This prevents them from going to the bathroom, being able to get an adequate amount of rest during the shift as well as eating properly.

    What was exposed in the article was that these Amazon fulfillment employees are treated more like robots than they are as people. They have systems tracking their productivity, and if the system notices a low productivity rate, then the overseers are notified and there is a high likelihood that those employees will get fired. There are many instances where individuals cannot keep up for health reasons or disabilities, and rather than being treated like humans they are being viewed as numbers in a system—a machine. This is not ethically correct to be treating employees like machinery. They need to have rest, bathroom breaks, and normal breaks to rest the body after hours of arduous work. It is not fair that they pressure their employees into fearing of using the bathroom because it will impede on their maximum allotted time for breaks. It was even exposed through many Amazon employees that instead of going to the bathroom they just pee in water bottles throughout the day, so they don’t break the quota and use up all their allotted break time. This is complete mistreatment of Amazon employees and it is humiliating how they are getting degraded to such an extent. What needs to be done is a complete re-evaluation of Amazon’s productivity system as well as a way to steer away from robotic monitoring and to have actual empathetic supervisors to be present when people cannot make the quota. People have their ups and downs and not everyone is perfect. A 20-year-old woman can probably package boxes faster than an 80-year-old man, and that is something that a robot does not consider when doing the evaluation of productivity ratings. Additionally, the work being done by these employees is much more arduous than expected and a $15 per hour wage seems very minimal with the work conditions they are experiencing. People will continue to work under these conditions because the wage is much higher than many other jobs, and everyone needs to bring home money to support their families. Which is why no matter how bad things get, people will come rushing back and enduring such horrible conditions just to be able to live another day—which is horrible because amazon sees the need for people to make money and is profiting off their need to live.

    My main concern is the effect that Amazon’s mistreatment of its employees will have on the other companies. If this large and very successful company can work their employees down to the bone and have more people rushing in when people are fired, what will stop another company from doing the same to make a huge profit? Amazon is still pulling in a huge profit and is not seeming to stop their inhumane acts towards their employees. So, the next question would be how do we stop this and how can we prevent others from following in Amazon’s footsteps? These questions are something I cannot answer but I hope this gets fixed soon because it is not fair that people are fired over a “lack of productivity” and that people have to endure inhumane conditions throughout the workweek.

  26. Trinity Holland October 16, 2019 at 5:10 pm #

    With Amazon being so widely-used and highly regarded, I think it’s disappointing to see that they don’t foster a good work environment. For a company that makes an obscene amount of money, one would hope that they treated their workers better. Though the article states that they have a high hourly pay rate, I don’t think that should be the only good quality of working at Amazon. As stated in the article it’s a, “machine that only sees numbers, not people”. It’s also disheartening to know that employees try to avoid taking bathroom breaks in fear of not keeping their productivity to standard. Moreover, to go ahead and just fire someone because their “numbers” aren’t up to standard doesn’t seem justified.
    I understand that in order to keep up with consumer demand, standards have to be met, but I believe they should care about their employees as much as they care about their consumers. Unfortunately, I don’t think this will change consumers opinions of the company as a whole because they want to ensure that they are still able to enjoy the benefits of Amazon, such as two-day shipping.

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