Is Amazon about to run out of workers? According to a leaked internal memo, the retail logistics company fears this.
“If we continue business as usual, Amazon will exhaust the available labor supply in the US network by 2024,” stated the research first published by Recode.
Amazon is right to worry — its employee turnover is astronomical. Before the pandemic, Amazon was losing about 3% of its workforce per week, or 150% per year. By contrast, annual sales in transportation, warehousing and utilities averaged 49% in 2021, and in retail it was 64.6%, less than half of Amazon’s sales.
Even Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is concerned. Bezos originally welcomed high turnover, fearing that long-term employees would slacken and cause a “march to the mid-level.” But in his final message to shareholders as CEO last year, Bezos said the company should “do a better job” for its employees. He wrote that Amazon would commit to being “the best employer on Earth and the safest workplace on Earth”.
The reason for Bezos’ change was partly due to a flurry of union efforts in the company’s warehouses. But Amazon also faces the problem of scale. As the second largest private employer in the United States, it is now struggling to replace all the workers it has lost.
Workers and labor groups have long criticized Amazon’s working conditions and high employee turnover amid rising infection rates.
Matt Littrell, 22, an Amazon picker in Campbellsville, Kentucky, since early 2021 who has been trying to organize a union in the warehouse, said Amazon’s hiring practices, production quotas, attendance policies and unequal enforcement of rules contribute to the lack of job security that drives Amazon’s high turnover rate.
One of the problems, he said, is Amazon’s “vacation mission” meter, where Amazon monitors employee productivity and issues write-offs, which can lead to terminations if too much “vacation for assignment” accumulates.
“Every one of those instances where it took you so long to find an item that counts against me, and it all gets added up, and then they calculate that as your total vacation time. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing your job — you weren’t meeting expectations,” Littrell said.
Littrell said he walks 15 miles or more on each college shift because his warehouses don’t have robotics technology where items are brought to collectors. He said the chests where items are stored are often overfilled, which can cause injury or make items more difficult to find — making it more difficult to meet productivity quotas.
If an Amazon employee receives so many attendance fines that he becomes passive on his allotted leave, he will face automatic termination if he cannot get an excuse from the proper management for the absence.
“You have to go through the bureaucracy of a big company to get housing,” Littrell said. “Even though they have all these miserable metrics to track you down, what it boils down to is that if you really want Amazon to go and find a clue, you have to fight for them like your own guild store host, you have to fight them every step of the way. And for a lot of people, that contributes to fatigue.”
Zaki Kaddoura, a worker at the JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island, New York, and a member of the Amazon Workers Union, said productivity quotas were a driving factor in Amazon’s high employee turnover. He also cited having to handle heavy objects, his inability to find space in storage bins, and the denial of accommodation for workers.
“Imagine that you do it for 10 hours a day, every work day, while someone is pressuring you to reach these goals,” Kaddoura said. “I think these quotas should be recommended, not obligated.”
A report based on Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Osha) data released by the Strategic Regulation Center in April found that Amazon’s critical injury rate in 2021 was 6.8 per 100 workers, more than double the average of 3.3 per 100 workers in the warehouse industry and 20% increase over the previous year.
With the unemployment rate near a 50-year low, Amazon is struggling to fill all the jobs it needs. According to the memo, written in mid-2021, the company was at risk of depleting its entire available pool of labor in the Phoenix, Arizona metro area by the end of that year, and in the Inland Empire in California by the end of the year. this year.
An Amazon spokesperson said regarding the research notes: “There are many draft documents written on many topics across the company that are used to test assumptions and consider different potential scenarios, but are not then escalated or used to make decisions. This was one of them.”
“It does not represent the actual situation, and we continue to hire well in Phoenix, the Inland Empire, and across the country.”