Is Amazon about to run out of employees? According to a leaked internal memo, the retail logistics company fears it.
“If we continue business as usual, Amazon will exhaust the labor supply available on the US network by 2024,” said the research, first reported by Recode.
Amazon is right to be concerned: its employee turnover rate is astronomical. Before the pandemic, Amazon was losing about 3% of its workforce per week, or 150% per year. In contrast, the average annual turnover in transportation, warehousing and utilities was 49% in 2021 and in retail it was 64.6%, less than half of the turnover in 2021. Amazon business.
Even Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is worried. Bezos originally welcomed high turnover, fearing long-serving employees would slack off and cause a “march into mediocrity.” But in his last letter to shareholders as CEO last year, Bezos said the company needed to “do a better job” for its employees. Amazon will be committed to being “Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Workplace,” he wrote.
Bezos’ change of heart is partly due to a flurry of organizing efforts at the company’s warehouses. But Amazon also faces a problem of scale. As the second largest private employer in the United States, it is now struggling to replace all the workers it loses.
Workers and labor groups have long denounced Amazon’s working conditions and high employee turnover amid high injury rates.
Matt Littrell, 22, a picker at Amazon in Campbellsville, Kentucky, since early 2021 who is trying to organize a union in the warehouse, said Amazon’s hiring practices, productivity quotas, attendance policies and uneven enforcement of rules contribute to the lack of job security that fuels Amazon’s high revenue.
One issue is Amazon’s “time off tasks” metric, he said, where Amazon monitors employee productivity and will issue ratings, which can lead to termination if too much time is accrued. .
“Each of those instances of me taking too long to find an item counted against me, and it all adds up, and then they count that as your total free time. And it didn’t matter if you were doing your job — you weren’t living up to expectations,” Littrell said.
Littrell said he travels 15 miles or more each shift as a picker because his warehouse does not have robotic technology where items are brought to pickers. He noted that the bins where items are stored are often overfilled, which can cause injuries or make it harder to find items, making it harder to meet productivity quotas.
If an Amazon employee receives so many attendance penalties that they become negative within the allotted time, they risk automatic termination if they cannot obtain the excuse of the absence through the correct department.
“You have to go through a lot of corporate bureaucracy to even get housing,” Littrell said. “Even if they have all these dystopian measures to track you, it’s like saying if you really want Amazon to go for evidence, you have to fight for it like your own shop steward, you have to fight them. every step of the way, and for many people this contributes to burnout.
Zaki Kaddoura, stower at Amazon warehouse JFK8 in Staten Island, New York, and a member of the Amazon Labor Union, said productivity quotas were a key factor in Amazon’s high employee turnover rate. He also cited having to handle heavy objects, not being able to find space in storage bins and denial of housing for workers.
“Imagine doing this for 10 hours a day, every working day, while someone urges you to achieve these goals,” Kaddoura said. “I think these quotas should be recommended, not mandatory.”
A report based on analysis of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Osha) data released by the Center for Strategic Organization in April 2022 found that Amazon’s serious injury rate in 2021 was 6.8 per 100 workers, more than double the average of 3.3 per 100 workers in the warehousing industry. and a 20% increase over the previous year.
With an unemployment rate near its lowest level in 50 years, Amazon is struggling to fill all the positions it needs. According to the memo, written in mid-2021, the company was in danger of exhausting its entire pool of available labor in the Phoenix, Arizona metro area by the end of this year, and in the Inland Empire region of California by the end of 2022.
An Amazon spokesperson said of the research memos: “There are many draft written documents on many topics in the company that are used to test hypotheses and examine different possible scenarios, but are not not then escalated or used to make decisions. He was one of them. This does not represent the real situation, and we continue to hire well in Phoenix, the Inland Empire and across the country.