Worker Correspondents: Amazon Uses Turnover and Speedups to Exploit Workers

Photo credit: Maryland GovPics

By Hannah Bellmer

I have been working at the Amazon PIT2 fulfillment center in Imperial, Pennsylvania since the end of last year. One thing that’s stood out to me is how Amazon maintains a high turnover rate as a way of ensuring its exploitative practices go unchallenged. The number of workers cycled out has gotten even higher lately in anticipation of peak season and in response to worse conditions in some departments.

“I’m a lot older than you,” one coworker told me. “I’ve worked a lot of different jobs. I’ve never seen anywhere go through people as fast as they do here. Warehouses always have high turnover, but this place is on a different level.”

Many workers in the ship dock department at PIT2 have quit over the past month, which I learned after I was pulled to work there and cover for the shortage. The ship dock is called “the dungeon” by some and generally considered to be among the least pleasant areas to work in the entire facility. But across the facility, many workers are considering quitting before ‘Peak,’ the busiest time of year, when the money just isn’t worth the overwork and risk of injury.

“I already worked Peak last year,” one worker said. “Once is enough for me. They can’t get me to do that again.”

At a fulfillment center like PIT2, peak season usually lasts from mid-November until Christmas and consists of working eleven-hour shifts five days a week instead of our standard ten hours a day, four days a week. Even this addition of an extra 15 hours per worker per week isn’t enough to meet the massive volume of product that needs to be moved during the holiday season, and workers are forced to do their jobs harder and faster to fulfill the bosses’ expectations.

I am certain almost every worker knows (consciously or otherwise) that the only way to meaningfully improve our lot is through the power of collective action. We need to recognize how Amazon tries to prevent this, and that high turnover and work speedups like Peak are no accident, but deliberate tactics to exploit us.

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