Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has brought the world convenience.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the two-day or next-day delivery I get with my Amazon Prime membership. If I think of something I need to buy but don’t feel like going to the store, I just open up Amazon’s app, and with a few clicks and some deep research through reviews, the product I’m looking for will be on its way to me.
Just like me, you probably don’t think too much about what goes into the convenience of ordering from Amazon. If you are a Prime member, you deserve it. After all, you are paying a yearly membership fee. However, there is a lot that goes into getting those packages to you within the Prime delivery window.
From an outsider and shareholder point of view, what the company is doing is exactly what you expect it to. It’s innovative, it’s using technology (NYSEARCA:XLK) that’s working, and it’s making the company money… so what’s the big deal? The big deal is that the amount of packages and orders that get processed is taking a toll on Amazon’s fulfillment warehouse workers.
And as Amazon Prime Day approaches, that means warehouse workers will be working extra hard for not just one week, but the time leading up to the event and then throughout the multiple days that constitute “Amazon Prime Day.”
What Can You Expect From Amazon’s Prime Day?
This year’s Amazon Prime Day will starts on Monday, July 15, at 2:59 a.m. ET. These deals from Amazon are exclusive to Prime members and will last for two full days.
This year’s Prime Day will be the longest Prime Day since Amazon started its holiday. Amazon is promising over a million deals with discounts on a lot of inventory, from 4K TVs to Fire TV Sticks. Usually during Amazon’s Prime Day, the company offers its best deals on its own products to entice members to buy its products and to gain even more revenue. Amazon is promising special deals that include Whole Food deals, Prime Day Twitch deals, and Music Unlimited deals.
According to Amazon, one-day shipping will be available on more than 10 million products with no minimum purchase required. The other Prime Day shipping options include two-day shipping, Amazon Counter (pick up from nearby pharmacies/grocery stores), and Prime Now (same-day delivery) on food and devices.
To ensure that this promise will be fulfilled, Amazon and its employees have been working extremely hard and have ramped up their shipping efforts. For example, the company added 15 Boeing 737-800 cargo aircraft to its current fleet.
The company wants a seamless Prime Day because everyone will be watching Amazon for those 48 hours. Any hiccup would create problems for the company, and it doesn’t want to disappoint its shareholders.
Behind the Scenes in Amazon’s Fulfillment Centers
While Prime Day is a very exciting event and there are a lot of deals and discounts to take advantage of, there’s one thing people don’t think about: the people who make this day and every day possible at Amazon.
Amazon promises some of the quickest shipping, and that means there are a lot of people working hard to meet that goal and make those expectations a reality.
Over the past few years, former employees have started to speak out about working conditions they endured while working with Amazon and at its fulfillment locations. Last year the company faced a lot of backlash after the public found out that most of Amazon’s employees were being paid below $15 an hour, especially at a time when its CEO Jeff Bezos became the richest person in the world. To ease some tension, the company decided to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour. That was an easy fix to a much bigger problem.
Conditions in its fulfillment centers haven’t improved, and workers are still being overworked for $15 an hour (at a minimum) while this massive company reaps the benefits. That’s why workers in these fulfillment centers throughout the country are planning on going on strike during Amazon’s Prime Day.
In a fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minnesota, there is a planned strike. Workers at this fulfillment center have spoken out about how they would like the retail giant to lighten its productivity quotas because it is making their jobs unsafe and extremely stressful. An employee at the warehouse for almost two years, Tyler Hamilton, said:
They try to get someone to work as hard as you can under the threat of being fired. As much as they can, they figure out ways to collect data and measure work.
A job opportunity with Amazon could seem like an opportunity of a lifetime for some people, since it is with a major company and may be their first time being employed. So you can see why a threat of getting fired could seem like the end of the world.
This isn’t the first time employees have threatened to strike during some of the major shopping days for Amazon. During Black Friday, protests began in Europe, but since unions are a lot stronger in Europe, it was easier for these employees to band together and fight for what they deserve. It’s harder for U.S. workers because most of them are hesitant to risk their livelihoods.
Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which is helping Amazon workers unionize in New York City, said:
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. 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 workers’ lives in jeopardy.
Strikes are expected to begin next Monday, July 15, the first day of Amazon’s Prime Day event. Minnesota’s fulfillment center isn’t the only Amazon fulfillment center planning to strike on Prime Day. A fulfillment center in North Carolina plans to strike, too.
Multiple strikes in multiple fulfillment centers will greatly impact delivery and could create a backlash from Prime members who won’t be getting their deals in the expected time. At the very least, multiple strikes will cause a ripple of bad publicity and disrupt the service Amazon prides itself on, which could very well disappoint Amazon’s shareholders and harm its public image.
Amazon launched Prime Day back in 2015 and wanted this year to be one that goes down in history with its extended day. But it might go down in history for other reasons.