Amazon is Chewing Up and Spitting Out Seasonal/Temp Workers

Amazon hired 175,000 seasonal workers during the pandemic, but won't disclose attrition rates

In March, Amazon announced plans to hire 100,000 additional workers to meet surges in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic. The following month, Amazon announced plans to hire an additional 75,000 workers.

Amazon won’t disclose the attrition rates of these new hires (the most recently available data, from 2017, shows Amazon warehouses in California had a 100.9 percent attrition rate according to a March 2020 report conducted by the National Employment Law Project). Nor will Amazon acknowledge the negative impacts of bringing in 175k new employees on current employees, and the desperation and exploitation these new workers experience in starting a new job at Amazon during a pandemic.

Channel Cryer started working at Amazon Air Station in Riverside, California once the economic shutdowns due to COVID 19 began and she lost her job, and the unemployment benefits offered at the time, a max of $450 per week, weren’t enough to make ends meet.

She quit recently after receiving notification at least two workers tested positive for coronavirus at the site.

“They did not tell us on which shift but all the shifts overlap so it’s a strong possibility that anyone working on these individuals shifts were exposed,” said Cryer. “Basically we were told that they cleaned the facility so unless you “feel” sick stay home. But that’s not how covid works because we might not have symptoms but could still be contagious.”

She also explained though safety procedures before shifts begin are implemented, social distancing is impossible during work shifts and productivity rates are prioritized.

“They can’t keep us apart. They talk about it when the Safety team is there but we have to make rate so they turn a blind eye to us being closer than 6 feet,” added Cryer. “The seasonal employees aren’t even making it through the first week some of them. They are also ending hazard pay even though there are clear hazards. I’m self quarantining to be safe but there are people who are still going to work and most likely will get infected because of Amazon.”

'I'm Still Making $8 an Hour':Working in Fast-Food During the Pandemic

Fast food workers are experiencing hour cuts, unsafe working conditions, understaffing, and constant pressure to meet time-to-order rates and quotas during the coronavirus pandemic.

41 year old Tina Watson, a cashier at Wendy’s in Holly Hill, South Carolina has seen her work schedule reduced from around 30 hours a week to around 10 hours a week due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Watson makes only $8 an hour, and was already struggling to keep up with bills, afford groceries, and take care of her 11 year old son during the pandemic. Now with the reduced schedule, no pay increase for working during the pandemic or any paid time off, it’s become even more difficult for her to make ends meet. 

“I’m still making $8 an hour. My check isn’t half of what I was making before the pandemic. The savings I had, I’m all out because I needed to make sure my son and I had what we needed during the pandemic,” said Watson. “I don’t know how I’m going to be able to keep what we got, keep our lights on, and get food that we need.” 

Fast food workers are considered essential positions, as fast food restaurants around the US have maintained drive-thru and delivery options during the coronavirus pandemic. Many workers in fast food explained they are not being provided proper personal protective equipment while working during the pandemic, adequate pay or sick leave, and many restaurant chains aren’t providing any additional wage increase for workers during the pandemic. 

“Fast food workers like many across the economy have faced economic and health insecurity from the spread of COVID-19. The vast majority have jobs that cannot be done from home, and as a result they either face layoffs and economic insecurity or are deemed essential and face substantial health risks just by going to work,” said Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute. 

Breana Conklin, a Taco Bell employee in Kansas City, Missouri makes the state minimum wage, $9.45 an hour, which remains unchanged even during the pandemic. 

“No pay increase, no incentives. Lines have been pretty long and we are still being yelled at about our out-the-door order times,” said Conklin. “Nothing has changed except what they have to change legally. We just now got masks to optionally wear.”

Eric Dye, a Taco Bell employee in the Huntington, West Virginia area, is making just over $9 an hour during the pandemic, and has experienced cuts to his schedule as a result of the in-store dining being shut down for the pandemic. 

“I don’t think it’s right everybody else is getting $2 more an hour for the hazard pay and we’re not getting it,” said Dyer. “It’s a rough time with everything going on. All of our hours got cut and with us not making anything, some of us have to go without stuff we really need. Our bills are behind because the hours were cut.”

A Taco Bell employee outside of Chicago, Illinois who requested to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation explained that despite the dining room closure due to the pandemic, workers have been expected to continue business as usual in meeting out the door time goals per order and workers don’t have time to change gloves or wash their hands on a regular basis because of it. 

“Those times weren’t changed with the circumstances. I do think they could’ve given us a little bit of leeway,” said the worker. They noted workers had to learn how to fulfill UberEats orders during the pandemic, in addition to continuing DoorDash and GrubHub orders.“We still get emails saying our times or customer surveys aren’t good enough. That’s all they care about. It seems like we get more emails per week regarding customer satisfaction than we do employee cleanliness.”

Taco Bell isn’t offering workers any additional wage increase or hazard pay for working during the pandemic, and did not comment on the lack of hazard pay for workers. 

Taco Bell workers in Michigan announced on May 16 over 250 employees pushed their franchise owner, SRS Management, to provide workers with $2 an hour hazard pay, a back pay bonus, and paid time off.

“We have always been sensitive to customer and team members’ feedback and our goals are not intended to sacrifice the safety of our team members for positive customer satisfaction surveys,” said a Taco Bell spokesperson. They cited workers at company owned restaurants (less than ten percent of all Taco Bell locations) are eligible to receive up to 24 hours of paid sick leave per year and will be offered full pay for quarantining, and have encouraged franchisees to match the policy. 

Ariel Nix, an employee at fast food chain Bojangles outside of Atlanta, Georgia for 8 years, started a petition on CoWorker during the coronavirus pandemic calling for the company to provide workers with paid sick leave and enact safety protections for workers during the pandemic. 

“Corporate and our franchise owner weren’t addressing anything. It was very business as usual,” said Nix. “Even before the pandemic, I worked there for 8 years in all levels of management and I was underpaid, never given any health benefits, never given paid sick leave, and workers are really pressured to come in even if we are sick.”

Nix quit at the end of March, citing safety concerns and the lack of action from Bojangles in protecting workers and providing them with fair compensation, as workers’ hourly wages remained unchanged during the pandemic. 

A Bojangles spokesperson did not comment on complaints about low wages, but stated in an email, “Bojangles’ takes the safety and well-being of our team members very seriously, and we are closely following the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).” 

Wendy’s did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story. 

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Whole Foods Plans to End Hazard Pay for Grocery Workers

In an email sent out to Whole Foods team members today from CEO John Mackey, Whole Foods announced plans to “return to our standard pay policies on June 1.”

The email also noted unlimited unpaid time off and enhanced overtime pay would end on June 1st, noting all team members who are immunocompromised or have at risk family members or dependents at home will be forced to take an unpaid leave of absence.

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Whole Foods also announced they are postponing their team member appreciation week, an annual event which normally includes providing workers with coupons and free food. These decisions coincide with Whole Foods rolling out a public relations “thank you” campaign to grocery store workers

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The Essential Workers on the Coronavirus Pandemic Frontlines

Jonathan Perales: Uber driver for about one year in Arlington, Texas

Perales leases a car from Uber to work for them, at $255 per week, because he can’t afford the upfront cost of purchasing a car or the maintenance if something happens to it.

He’s currently living out of the car he rents from Uber after he could no longer afford to live in the extended motel he was staying in due to getting sick during the coronavirus pandemic, but unable to find anywhere to get tested. 

“On the 13th of March I started experiencing symptoms,” said Perales, who went to the hospital, but was advised to self-quarantine as they were rationing tests at the time for those who were gravely ill. “I had reported to Uber on the 13th that I had symptoms so I could inquire about the assistance they were talking about on the news, but instead I was suspended without pay pending a positive COVID-19 test.”

He tried to submit medical documents directly to Uber, but Perales explained they wanted the documents directly sent from medical professionals. In the meantime, Perales tried to find somewhere to get tested for COVID-19, but was unable to do so. In the meantime, Uber would not provide him with financial assistance. 

“Nothing arrived and I ended up homeless. I wasn't able to keep up with the rent for the motel room without a job and they kicked me out,” he said. 

His Uber account’s suspension was lifted shortly after he became homeless, and received $317 from Uber in paid sick leave, far short of the two weeks paid leave Uber promised drivers if they were diagnosed or forced to self-quarantine. Perales said he normally makes between $1500 to $2000 a week before expenses. 

“I was given $317 to survive for two weeks. Given that I’m sleeping in my car, I don’t think that quite worked out,” Perales added. He has returned to driving after his symptoms have gone away, but his income has declined significantly due to the drastic reduction in demand for rides. 

Kate Walton: Emergency Room Nurse for thirteen years in Madison, Wisconsin

According to Walton, the coronavirus pandemic is just beginning to surge in Wisconsin. Their hospital is already conserving personal protective equipment such as reusing N95 masks. 

“We’re just starting to see the really sick patients now. They take up a lot of time and a lot of resources and we know this is just the beginning,” said Walton. “As we’re waiting for this tidal wave to hit, it’s been really frustrating to watch our legislators at the state and federal level pass the buck on everything. Our state legislators took a two week vacation in the middle of this. I don’t get to not report to work during a pandemic, but apparently they do.”

Walton also expressed concern and frustration with Wisconsin moving forward with plans to hold primary elections on Tuesday, April 7, despite the public health risks it poses. 

“It’s been frustrating. We already have a sense of dread watching what is coming for us,” added Walton. They cited elected officials should be taking steps to address personal protective equipment, provide paid sick leave to workers, and provide frontline workers with hazard pay during the pandemic. “We’re putting our families and loved ones at risk. We need our leaders to step up and do the things they should have been doing all along to make us safer, make our workplace safer, and to help us be able to do our jobs safely and do them well.”

Dan Vaughan Cherubin: Food Bank coordinator for over one year in Albany, New York 

The demand for food assistance has at least quadrupled over the past few weeks due to more people facing food insecurity due to mass layoffs caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Vaughan Cherubin, a coordinator at Food Pantries for the Capital District, which operates 60 food pantries in four counties in Upstate New York. The network has worked to shift their volunteer network to remote work and seeking monetary donations in lieu of food donations due to concerns over the spread of the virus. 

“We lost one of our board members to the virus last week.  He was an incredible person and on top of being a board member he regularly volunteered to unload food orders from our box trucks at one of our network pantries.  This loss has left us raw and fearful of how many more,” said Vaughan Cherubin. “This is a new normal I did not ever think I’d have to adjust to.”

Max Blechman: Uber driver for about one year in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

When the coronavirus pandemic began to surge in the US, 25 year old Blechman got sick with flu-like symptoms. He was able to get tested for COVID 19, and the results came back negative, but he’s self quarantined himself over the past two weeks with no pay from Uber. 

“Paying bills is a worry right now. I don’t know how I’m going to pay for rent, electricity, water, all that kind of stuff,” said Blechman. He filed for unemployment benefits on March 28 after the federal stimulus bill passed to include the benefits for gig economy workers, but has yet to receive them. He’s also still working on obtaining paid sick leave benefits from Uber due to a self-quarantine recommendation from a doctor while he awaited coronavirus test results. 

“Uber has made virtually no efforts to help us combat this disease,” added Blechman. “They don’t offer personal protective equipment to drivers, they don’t offer hazard pay, they don’t offer paid sick time unless you get a note from a doctor, and that’s hard to get right now, and they’re still investing a ton of money in fighting employment for drivers when that money could go towards relief efforts or guaranteeing pay to struggling drivers.”

Matthew Telles: Instacart Shopper for five years outside of Chicago, Illinois

Instacart is hiring 300,000 additional shoppers to meet increased demands for grocery delivery during the coronavirus pandemic, enticing new workers with referral bonuses. 

Telles claimed the Instacart referral bonuses used to lure new workers is misleading. 

“They are getting that referral bonus money by bundling three orders together under one payment, which equates to free labor. While Instacart doesn’t have to pay for two out of three orders, they’re able to move that money into a referral bonus fund which is really hard to get. They will throttle that new shopper at the end of the bonus period making sure they don’t get access to batches, therefore they get a new hire and don’t have to pay for it as well. It’s just a scam,” said Telles. 

He explained that while payouts have decreased due to Instacart consolidating batches of orders into one, working conditions have worsened due to new, untrained shoppers and the increased volume of people going to grocery stores. 

“For the first time in years doing this job, I’m sweating at the register doing three orders to make $30 for 2 hours of work and 20 miles of driving. You’re in constant flight or fight mode. It’s scary. I’m still panicked anytime I leave my car,” added Telles. “And there’s an influx of new shoppers who don’t understand the job, they are crowding the grocery stores, asking grocery workers to do the job for them. Where’s this item? Where’s that item? For a whole order.” 

Angie Kufner: Shipt and Instacart shopper for two years in Des Moines, Iowa

Kufner has also recently stopped shopping for Instacart and Shipt because she is immunocompromised and takes care of her elderly father, who is also at risk. 

“It’s not safe for me to do it. So I have zero income. Shipt, Instacart, any of these companies are not doing anything to support the workers who either have to stay home because they’re immunocompromised, or get sick and show symptoms, but it’s nearly impossible to get tested,” said Kufner. “The pay has gotten worse. I have so many examples of getting paid $4 to $6 for an order that takes an hour to complete. People are getting paid way below minimum wage. They’re not giving people anything safety wise. No hand sanitizer, no wipes, nothing, and all these new people coming in are so desperate for money.” 

She explained people like herself who cannot work are being left behind and replaced with hiring new workers en masse who are desperate for work. “These companies don’t care. It’s all about profit,” Kufner added. 

Ashley Johnson: Instacart shopper for over a year in Seattle, Washington 

“Instacart is mismanaging it, but also using the pandemic as an exploitative measure so they can make it a profit game for them,” said Johnson. “Instacart is saying they’re doing all these things, but there are so many hoops to jump through”

Johnson criticized Instacart’s announcement of hiring 300,000 new workers, nearly double their current number of 175,000 shoppers

“I get angry over it. It’s really scary and disheartening when you think of the customer base, a lot are just trying to do the right thing and stay home, or they are at risk of being impacted by the virus, and that is who Instacart is profiting from,” she added.

Workers in the time of Coronavirus

Layoffs, furloughs, schedule cuts to workers to the mistreatment, overworking, and underpaying of workers on the frontlines

Unemployment in the US could reach as high as 30 percent in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Workers in various industries have been experiencing mass layoffs and furloughs, left with no income and forced to rely on unemployment benefits, which only provide a portion of lost income. During this time, workers are also losing benefits such as health insurance during a health crisis.

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/bvg3dm/coronavirus-is-ripping-away-health-insurance-for-hourly-workers

The coronavirus is exposing how ill equipped the US economy is to handle this crisis. Millions of workers were already living paycheck to paycheck, with little to no safety net such as paid sick leave or any kind of paid time off.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/09/lack-paid-sick-leave-will-leave-millions-us-workers-vulnerable-coronavirus

The pandemic is also exposing the fallacy of arguments against raising the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour, as the essential emergency workers during this crisis are those who work in grocery stores, in warehouses, in fast food restaurants, in hospitals; and these same workers are often low paid, with little to no benefits, and no union representation.

As large corporations such as Target, Walmart, and Amazon are hiring thousands of workers to meet large increases in demand, workers at these companies have sounded alarms on the lack of concern, protections, and adequate compensation.

Amazon and Whole Foods workers-

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/mar/18/amazon-whole-foods-workers-stores-warehouses-coronavirus

Target and Walmart workers-

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/mar/22/target-walmart-coronavirus-workers-not-protected

As congress is currently debating the details of industry bailouts, such as the airline industry, workers are sounding the alarm over concerns that these bailouts will repeat past mistakes of handing enormous checks to corporations who will use that money to enrich themselves and their shareholders, while leaving their workers on the frontlines out to dry. The template for industry bailouts need to be focused on worker relief, in continuing to maintain payrolls to protect workers’ wages and benefits.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/mar/23/existential-crisis-airline-workers-fear-layoffs-amid-coronavirus-pandemic

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