Amazon Is Penalizing Workers Who Staged A Walkout At A Minnesota Warehouse
Amazon warehouse workers who walked off the job for better pay and time off say the company is retaliating against them.
Video produced and edited by Libby Rainey and Ian McKenna
Amazon workers at a warehouse in Shakopee, Minnesota—outside of Minneapolis—walked off the job on April 29, 2022, to demand time off for the Muslim holiday of Eid and the reinstatement of a $3/hour raise. One worker says that Amazon responded to the walkout by docking those who walked out up to 10 hours of their time off. We spoke to workers at the fulfillment center about their demands and the company’s response. Below is a full transcript of the video:
Jeremy Lane: They gave night shift a $3 an hour pay increase, and then they took it away
Khali Jama: First you hire me with a certain amount, and then you take it down? It’s not fair to me, you know, or fair to any other family members.
Tyler Hamilton: That $3 an hour makes a huge difference for people. That means food on their table, gas in their tank, that means things that their kids need. And that’s why we’re trying to get it back—because people need it.
Minnesota Amazon workers walked out to demand a raise and time off for the Muslim holiday of Eid.
Khali: I literally asked HR months before the Ramadan started, “How do I get my Eid day off?” They can at least give us our right of religion, like Christmas. People take off, right? And they get paid! Why can’t we get the same?
Amazon has punished workers that walked out by docking their time off.
Tyler: Yeah, when I walked off Amazon took my hours. They took a lot of people’s hours. I’ve heard from a ton of workers who’ve lost, you know, 7 hours, 8 hours, 10 hours—and that’s 10 hours closer to being fired.
Workers at the Amazon warehouse in Shakopee, Minnesota, walked off the job on April 29.
Tyler: Me and a bunch of other workers, we walked out to demand a pay increase of $3 an hour.
[Walkout footage]: What do we want? Three dollars! When do we want it? Now!
Tyler: We did have that for much of the peak season, for five months, until Amazon clawed it back. Even as the cost of housing is going up, and food, people paying for gas, they thought it would be a good idea to lower our pay.
Jeremy: It’s huge because, you know, a lot of us, we’re living paycheck to paycheck.
Khali: You know, I work two jobs. It would make a difference for me.
[Walkout footage]: They want our backs broken with these heavy items, but don’t want to give us a raise? That don’t make no sense.
Tyler: Initially Amazon had given the $3 an hour because they were desperate. After years of treating their workers so poorly, the amount of people who have worked here and left is incredible; so they had to pay more.
Turnover at the Shakopee warehouse is as high as 170%, according to one analysis of Amazon facilities in Minnesota.
Tyler: At Amazon, they’re really good at burning people out. It really doesn’t matter what kind of position you have, like, it’ll wear on you either physically, or mentally, or both.
Workers were also protesting Amazon’s brutal time off policy.
Jeremy: We get 20 hours of unpaid time off in three months. We work ten-hour shifts, so that’s only two days off every three months. And if you get sick, you’re usually sick longer than one day, you know. But the time off is so limited.
Tyler: But when you run out, you lose your job.
Khali: It’s just so hard. A lot of people are having a hard time. And the last thing you need is to worry about your job.
Tyler: Everyone knows it. Everyone is very aware of it because it’s drilled through people’s heads: less time off is closer to being fired. You run out of time off? You’re fired. It’s drilled into people’s heads from the moment they start.
Some workers were told they would have to use their accrued time off for Eid, putting them closer to potential termination.
Khali: How does that work? Okay, so now I use all my hours. Then what? If something happens to me, I can’t leave. If something happens to my child, I can’t leave because that’s an automatic termination. And we’re not even asking for paid [time off]. We just want [to take] off [for Eid without penalties]. And that’s one of the things I’m fighting for right know. Another three months ahead is [Eid al-Adha] coming out, which is one of the largest. So am I going to have that day off? Am I not? I don’t know. But I shouldn’t be feeling that way from the company. They should give us the answers. We deserve better. We’re not begging anyone. We work hard. We’re here. We do our job. We just want Amazon to treat us fairly as any other religion.
Workers say they’ll keep organizing until they win a permanent $3 raise.
Tyler: So $3 an hour is really the bare minimum they can do. The minimum.
Naomi Swan: This $3 means gas in my car, food on the table for my children, and also, like, car insurance, which are essential things to live.
Khali: It’s just, for me, I”m fighting for my rights. And I think anyone would, you know? Anybody would fight for what’s right for them.