And the black associates in the warehouse were nearly 50 percent more likely to be fired, whether for productivity, misconduct or absenteeism, than their white peers, records show. (Amazon said it couldn’t confirm the data without knowing more details about its source.)
Derrick Palmer, a black worker at JFK8, started the company in 2015 as a foodie and was often a top-tier producer.
But between constant monitoring, the assumption that many workers are lazy, and a lack of advancement opportunities, “many minority workers just felt like we were being used,” Palmer said. His comments echoed the sentiment of black workers behind a failed unionization drive at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama this year.
This spring, the company introduced a series of diversity plans, including the goal of “retaining employees at statistically similar rates across demographic groups,” an implicit admission that the numbers had been uneven across races. At JFK8, leaders are holding weekly “talent reviews” meetings to ensure that Black and Latino workers, among others, are moving forward.
5. Many of Amazon’s most controversial policies can be traced back to the original vision of Jeff Bezos.
Some of the practices that frustrate employees the most – the short-term employment model, with few opportunities for advancement, and the use of technology to hire, monitor, and manage workers – come from Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.
He believed that an entrenched workforce created a “march toward mediocrity,” said David Niekerk, a longtime former vice president who built the company’s original human resources operations in warehouses.
Company data showed that most employees became less anxious over time, he said, and Bezos believed that people were inherently lazy. “What he would say is that our nature as humans is to expend as little energy as possible to get what we want or need,” Niekerk said. That conviction was ingrained throughout the company, from the ease of instant ordering to the widespread use of data to get the most out of employees.