As Amazon prepares to roll out free one-day shipping for members of its Prime subscription service, a leading union attacked the e-commerce giant over potential workplace practices that could put its warehouse workers in jeopardy.
The company said it expects to spend $800 million this quarter to improve its delivery infrastructure in order to speed up shipments to customers. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), a longtime Amazon critic, said the change will only exacerbate existing workplace challenges for workers contending with high shipment volumes.
“With two-day Prime shipping, Amazon fulfillment workers currently face speeds of 200-300 orders per hour in 12-hour shifts,” RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement. “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 worker’s lives in jeopardy.”
Amazon has faced widespread scrutiny in recent years over conditions in its fulfillment centers, with many reports detailing a high-stress environment for warehouse workers. The company has pushed back on calls for unionization among warehouse workers and boosted minimum wages to $15 per hour for all employees after criticism from political leaders.
Amazon spokesperson Dave Clark dismissed Appelbaum’s comments, calling them “misguided and self-serving.”
“We have strategically grown our network to include fulfillment centers, package sortation centers, delivery stations and air hubs all to be closer to our customers. 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,” Clark said in a statement obtained by CNET.
Amazon reported its fourth straight quarter of record profit earlier this month and posted quarterly revenue of $59.7 billion.