Amazon could run out of US workers in two years, internal memo suggests | Amazon

Is Amazon about to run out of workers? According to a leaked internal memo, the retail logistics company fears so.

“If we continue business as usual, Amazon will exhaust the available labor supply on the US grid by 2024,” states the research, first reported by Recode.

Amazon is right to be concerned: its turnover rate is astronomical. Before the pandemic, Amazon was losing about 3% of its workforce weekly, or 150% annually. In contrast, the average annual turnover in transportation, storage and utilities was 49% in 2021 and in retail it was 64.6%, less than half of Amazon’s turnover.

Even Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is concerned. Bezos originally welcomed high turnover, fearing that long-term employees would slack off and cause a “march toward mediocrity.” But in his final letter to shareholders as CEO last year, Bezos said the company had to “do a better job” for its employees. Amazon will commit to being “the best employer on Earth and the safest workplace on Earth,” he wrote.

In part, Bezos’ change of heart is due to a wave of unionization efforts at the company’s warehouses. But Amazon also faces a problem of scale. As the second largest private employer in the US, it is now fighting 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, an Amazon picker in Campbellsville, Kentucky, since early 2021 who is trying to organize a union at the warehouse, said Amazon’s hiring practices, productivity quotas, attendance policies and the uneven application of the rules contributes to the lack of employment. security that drives Amazon’s high turnover.

One problem is Amazon’s “time off from task” metric, he said, where Amazon monitors employee productivity and will issue reports, which can lead to termination if it accumulates too much.

“Every one of those instances where I was taking too long to find an item counted against me, and all of that adds up and then they count it as your total time off. And no matter if you were doing your job, you weren’t meeting expectations,” Littrell said.

Littrell said he walks 15 miles or more each shift as a picker because his warehouse doesn’t have robotic technology where items are brought to pickers. He noted that the bins where items are stored are often overfull, which can cause injuries or make it difficult to find items, making it difficult to meet productivity quotas.

If an Amazon worker receives so many attendance penalties that they become negative in their allotted time off, they will face automatic termination if they can’t get the excuse from the right department.

“You have to go through a lot of corporate bureaucracy to even get an accommodation,” Littrell said. “Even though they have all these dystopian metrics to track you, it comes down to if you really want Amazon to go and find evidence, you have to fight for it as your own union steward, you have to fight them. every step of the way, and for many people that contributes to burnout.”

Zaki Kaddoura, a stockist at Amazon’s 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 mentioned having to handle heavy items, not being able to find space in storage containers, and workers being denied housing.

“Imagine doing that for 10 hours a day, every weekday, while someone is pushing you to achieve these goals,” Kaddoura said. “I think these quotas should be recommended, not required.”

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 an increase of 20% from the previous year.

With the unemployment rate near a 50-year low, 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 all of its available workforce in the Phoenix, Arizona metro area by the end of that year, and in California’s Inland Empire region by the end of 2022. .

An Amazon spokesperson said regarding the investigation memorandums: “There are many draft documents written on many topics across the company that are used to test assumptions and look at different possible scenarios, but are then not escalated or used to take action. decisions. This was one of them. It does not represent the real situation, and we continue to hire well in Phoenix, the Inland Empire and across the country.”

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