You don’t become a trillion-dollar tech company by asking how you can make the world a better place; you do it by asking how much can I get away with now? And then you squeeze working place people for every ounce of their mental and physical energy. This is the guiding philosophy of Amazon, which is now allegedly forcing workers to combine shifts into a monstrous overnight shifts lasting ten or eleven which workers have dubbed the “megacycle.”
Amazon workers at delivery stations now claim that they’ve been forced to combine shifts into a monstrous overnight shifts lasting ten or eleven which workers have dubbed the “megacycle.” According to a flyer from the workers’ organising group Amazonians United New York, the megacycle typically runs from 1 or 2 am to 11 am or noon. The flyer claims management adds workers onto megacycles with “very little warning,” and that workers may be “forced off the job” if they refuse to take on these new shifts.
Motherboard, which first reported the story, recounted this exact scenario. Workers at Chicago’s DCH1 facility claim that on January 25, management announced to workers that would be moved to a different site where these gruelling shifts were already in place (the only alternative being to forfeit their jobs.) Shifts there, they say, run from 1:20am to 11:50am.
The company told Gizmodo that the majority of Amazon’s logistics network is on the megacycle. It added that shutting down the DCH1 location was in the best interest of its customers and that it increased efficiency. It also said that it offers other shift types, both full and part time, and that it supports employees in identifying alternatives that work for them. Whether those alternatives are less taxing or more flexible was unclear.
Amazon spokesperson Jen Crowcroft told Gizmodo that it is “inaccurate” that DCH1 employees have been asked to “change to a single shift type.” “We offer a wide range of job opportunities at Amazon sites and we are working with each associate directly on the option that best supports them,” Crowcroft added, noting that there are other Amazon facilities in the area.
A New York City worker at the DBK1 delivery station in Queens told Gizmodo via email that they could reasonably expect megacycles to be gruelling. “I usually don’t get out of bed the next day,” they said of working a standard nighttime double shift. “A normal six-hour shift can be exhausting. I once worked a 57-hour week, and couldn’t get out of bed for 3 days. The work is mentally and physically exhausting.”
The national organising group Amazonians United, which runs workplace campaigns and files unfair labour practices complaints on behalf of Amazon workers in the U.S., has petitioned the company to at least mitigate the pain of megacycles. It asked that Amazon allow a little flexibility for workers in specific scenarios, like caretakers and parents, who can’t, for example, leave their kids at home alone for hours during a school day. Additionally, it also asked that Amazon pay out an extra $US2 ($3)-per-hour for megacycles, provide workers with Lyfts for their commutes, and to stop shortchanging workers their promised 20-minute breaks.
Amazon offered employees an extra $US2 ($3) per hour in hazard pay at the outbreak of the pandemic and then took it back a few months later, though the U.S. is still experiencing 100,000+ new cases daily. Since last March, Jeff Bezos managed to amass even more wealth — so much so that he could have comfortably covered $US105,000 ($138,180) bonuses for every Amazon employee. He has chosen not to do either.
Gizmodo has reached out to the workers at the Chicago facility and will update the post if we hear back.