Head of workers’ union speaks out against Amazon’s one-day shipping plan

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The executive argues that fulfillment center workers are already struggling to maintain their current pace

Amazon’s goal of making one-day shipping the default plan for Prime customers is facing criticism from the head of a major labor union.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, argued in a statement published Friday that speeding up deliveries may not be feasible for fulfillment center workers who are already processing several hundred orders per hour during long shifts.

“With two-day Prime shipping, Amazon fulfillment workers currently face speeds of 200-300 orders per hour in 12-hour shifts. They struggle already to maintain that pace,” Appelbaum said. “If Amazon plans to effectively double the speed, it must also address existing workforce needs and ensure its workers are safe. Increasing fulfillment speeds means they need to hire more workers, under more sustainable speeds that don’t put worker’s lives in jeopardy.”

In a statement of its own, Amazon called the claims presented in Appelbaum’s statement “misguided and self-serving” and added that the company’s 20 years of business experience has helped it build “a positive, safe environment in our facilities.”

“This enables Amazon to deliver orders faster and more efficiently — not by working harder but by working smarter based on decades of process improvement and innovation,” Dave Clark, senior vice president of Amazon Worldwide Operations, said in the statement.

Criticism over warehouse pay and environment

This isn’t the first time Amazon has faced criticism over the way it treats its warehouse workers. Back in December, Amazon warehouse workers in New York announced plans to unionize, citing 12-hour shifts, low pay, and the company’s hard-to-meet performance quotas.

One employee said during a press conference that ever since Amazon opened a warehouse on Staten Island, “management has forced everyone at the warehouse to work 12-hour shifts for five or six days a week.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Ver.) has also criticized Amazon for it’s pay and work environment at warehouses and fulfillment centers.

“Amazon has been less than forthcoming with information about their employment practices,” Sanders said in a statement last August. “What we do know is that Amazon’s median employee pay is only $28,446 — 9 percent less than the industry average and well below what constitutes a living wage in the United States. Further, we believe that many of Amazon’s workers are employed by temporary staffing agencies and contractors and make even less than the median Amazon employee.”

Amazon has maintained that its fulfillment center workers are treated well and that full-time employees earn an average hourly wage of over $15 an hour before overtime.

“In addition to highly competitive wages and a climate controlled, safe workplace, Amazon provides employees with a comprehensive benefit package including health insurance, disability insurance, retirement savings plans, and company stock,” Amazon said in response to Sanders’ statement.

Amazon said last week that its goal of speeding up shipping times for Prime customers would be “very important for the customer.”

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