“We have to keep up with the pace. My workday feels like a nine-hour intense workout every day. And they track our every move — if your computer isn’t scanning, you get charged with being time-off-task,” said Bates, a learning ambassador who helps train other workers at the facility and who has been a vocal organizer behind the union push. “From the onset, I learned that if I worked too slow or had too much time-off-task I could be disciplined or even fired.”
Bates was invited by Sen. Bernie Sanders to speak on the topic of “Income and Wealth Inequality Crisis in America.” Amazon’s outgoing CEO Jeff Bezos was also invited to speak but declined the offer. In a statement last week, an Amazon spokesperson said, “We fully endorse Senator Sanders’ efforts to reduce income inequality with legislation to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour for all workers, like we did for ours in 2018.”
“We take employee feedback seriously, including Ms. Bates’, but we don’t believe her comments represent the more than 90% of her fulfillment center colleagues who say they’d recommend Amazon as a great place to work to friends and family,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday. The spokesperson added that Amazon employees “earn at least $15 an hour, receive comprehensive healthcare and paid leave benefits.”
Bates described 10-hour shifts with just two 30-minute breaks that are “not long enough to give you time to rest” given the facility’s expansive size.
“Just walking the long way to the bathroom and back eats up precious break time,” said Bates, who said that elevators in the facility had signage indicating they were for “material only, no riders.” “I couldn’t believe that they built a facility with so many elevators for materials and make the employees take the stairs on a huge four-flight facility.”
As CNN Business has previously reported, Amazon has waged an aggressive anti-union campaign leading up to the vote. Workers were frequently informed of Amazon’s stance that a union is an unnecessary expense. Workers saw anti-union signage on the bathroom stalls; they were pulled into one-on-one meetings on the warehouse floor and were also required to attend group meetings every few shifts. The company sent out numerous text messages to workers and launched an anti-union website that warns against paying dues: “Don’t buy that dinner, don’t buy those school supplies, don’t buy those gifts because you won’t have that almost $500 you paid in dues.”
“It’s frustrating that all we want is to make Amazon a better place to work. Yet Amazon is acting like they are under attack. Maybe if they spent less time – and money – trying to stop the union they would hear what we are saying. And maybe they would create a company that’s as good for workers and our community as it is for shareholders and executives,” said Bates.
“Why can’t such a large and wealthy company do better for their workers?” Bates said. “Amazon even took away our essential worker pay in the middle of the pandemic. Meanwhile, Amazon has made tons of money during this crisis. Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world. And now he’s even richer thanks to us workers.”