What goes on behind the scenes at a giant online retailer like Amazon.com?
A job posting for openings at Amazon.com's largest "fulfillment center" in Coffeyville, Kansas offers a glimpse into the working lives of Amazon employees in charge of filling holiday orders at the online seller's offline warehouses.
Hoping to find people to help with the rush of holiday shopping, Amazon posted an add to to Express soliciting people to "come work the holiday season with Amazon.com at their largest fulfillment center" and noting that every year, Amazon.com "searches for over 1,000 smart, friendly and dedicated people with a strong work ethic."
The listing details several other qualifications for potential employees.
The post specifies that people involved in "Picking/Order Selection" are required to "stand on feet for 8-10 hours," and "walk 10-15 miles a day."
To do shipping, potential employees "must be able to stand on feet for 8-10 hours." And workers in 'receiving' are required to "stand fairly stationary throughout shift for 8-10 hours," while they also have to "lift, bend, stoop and squat repetitively."
The pay starts at $10.50 an hour for day shifts, and $11 an hour for nights.
According to a Tweet from Twitter user @JoelJohnson Amazon's hired hands during the holidays will be put up in an RV camp in the area of the Kansas warehouse:
During Xmas season, Amazon pays the camp fees for RV travelers to get them to come work in fulfillment centers. http://bit.ly/6sPTpL
Amazon.com has made news recently over some of its workplace practices.
The company was recently hit with a lawsuit alleging that the online retailer shorted employees on overtime pay they had earned. Reuters reports,
A former Amazon.com Inc worker has sued the online retailer, saying it shorts as many as 21,000 warehouse workers nationwide on overtime pay.
And last December, 2008, the Times wrote that Amazon was "punishing" its workers for falling ill, "making its staff work seven days a week and threatening them with the sack if they take time off sick."
The Times article reported finding these conditions in the Amazon warehouses in the UK. Employees were,
- Warned that the company refuses to allow sick leave, even if the worker has a legitimate doctor's note. Taking a day off sick, even with a note, results in a penalty point. A worker with six points faces dismissal.
- Made to work a compulsory 10-hour overnight shift at the end of a five-day week. The overnight shift, which runs from Saturday evening to 5am on Sunday, means they have to work every day of the week.
- Set quotas for the number of items to be picked or packed in an hour that even a manager described as 'ridiculous'. Those packing heavy Xbox games consoles had to pack 140 an hour to reach their target.
- Set against each other with a bonus scheme that penalises staff if any other member of their group fails to hit the quota.
- Made to walk up to 14 miles a shift to collect items for packing.
- Given only one break of 15 minutes and another of 20 minutes per eight-hour shift and told they had to notify staff when going to the toilet. Amazon said workers wanted the shorter breaks in exchange for shorter shifts.
See photos from Amazon.com's warehouses around the US below.