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What We Learned About Amazon’s Warehouse Workers

  • June 15, 2021

“I saw those situations every day,” he said.

Ms. Nantel, the spokeswoman, said the company had quickly approved personal leaves during the pandemic, hiring 500 people to help process the increased volume, and worked hard to contact employees before they were fired to see if they wanted to keep their jobs.

Amazon tracks workers’ every movement inside its warehouses. Employees who work too slowly, or are idle for too long, risk being fired.

Dayana Santos was a top performer when she had one bad day in 2019. Her bus was late, then her department was reassigned, causing her to scour the warehouse for a new workstation. That afternoon, she was stunned to find that she was being fired for having too much “time off task,” or T.O.T.

Very few associates are fired for low productivity or time off task, but employees don’t know that. The goal, JFK8’s internal guidelines state, “is to create an environment not where we are writing everyone up, but that associates know that we are auditing for T.O.T.”

The system was designed to identify impediments a worker may face, but some executives, including the early architect of Amazon’s warehouse human relations, worry that the metrics now cast an outsize shadow on the work force, creating an anxious, negative environment.

After questions about Ms. Santos and T.O.T. from The Times, Amazon announced changes to its policy so that workers would never be fired for one bad day. Ms. Santos and all those like her are now eligible to be rehired. The company said it had been reconsidering the policy for months.

The retail giant is largely powered by employees of color. According to internal records from 2019, more than 60 percent of associates at JFK8 are Black or Latino.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/15/us/politics/amazon-warehouse-workers.html

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