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Jacobin - January 9, 2022

Amazon has a nationwide weekly turnover rate of 3 percent — equivalent to a total replacement of all its hourly workers every eight months.

... During the tornado in Edwardsville, one of Amazon’s contract delivery drivers was texting with their supervisor. In the hour leading up to the tornado’s touchdown, the driver was told to “just keep delivering,” despite their requests for a chance to find shelter. When their supervisor said no, the delivery worker accused Amazon of “wanting to turn this van into a casket.”

A recurring complaint from Amazon warehouse and delivery workers has been the feeling that they are completely disposable. Amazon has a nationwide weekly turnover rate of 3 percent, or roughly thirty thousand employees — equivalent to a total replacement of all its hourly workers every eight months. While many companies consider high turnover costly, Amazon’s workplace is designed for rapidly replacing workers. Jeff Bezos famously called an entrenched workforce a “march to mediocrity.” Rapid turnover also benefits Amazon’s bottom line by making long-term strategies like unionizing more difficult and stopping employees from accessing the benefits accrued over time, repeatedly touted by company spokespersons as an advantage of working there.

High turnover thus accelerates a race to the bottom whereby wages get repeatedly reset to their starting point. In a practice being mainstreamed by Amazon, workers, after their first year of employment, are offered increasing sums of cash up front if they choose to quit. In 2019, to make the point clearer, Amazon hired around 770,000 new hourly workers but had fired or lost more than 660,000 of them by the year’s end. By all accounts, these trends only accelerated with the pandemic. And that’s not to mention the fate of part-time employees.

The politics and policy of disposability can also be seen, specifically, in the death of these six workers inside the Edwardsville warehouse. Theories of disposability were popularized by critical race scholars to describe how structural violence operates to abandon racialized populations, killing by neglect. Disposability politics asks how we can understand Morrow and his coworkers’ deaths as an outcome Amazon allowed, expected, and predicted. ...
Read full report at Jacobin