Consider it a new holiday tradition: Whether due to capitalism, an over-dependence on free shipping, or that very American habit of forgetting things until the last possible minute, Amazon is never more powerful than it is during the holidays. The company has reported massive growth during the season for the last three years; according to a press release, in 2018, the company shipped more than a billion items in the United States alone through its Prime membership service. But that global domination comes at a major cost — and some of the people who power all of that convenience are taking yet another stand.
On Monday (December 23), workers at an Amazon fulfillment warehouse in Sacramento, California, walked off the job, Recode reported. 36 workers at the location known as DSM1 walked off the job around 2:45 a.m. to amplify their demands for paid time off and later made their protest known through a Facebook post on the page for Amazonians United Sacramento. The group has a history of advocating for workers' rights; in October, it successfully lobbied that the retail giant rehire two part time workers, one of whom had exceeded a paid time off request by a single hour.
The workers at DSM1 have been publicly calling for a change in the company's paid time off policy since at least October of this year. In December, they began circulating a petition and an internal memo advocating for changes, according to BuzzFeed. California law does not require employers to provide workers with either paid or unpaid time off, only that the company is upfront about its policy prior to someone being hired. DSM1 workers' shifts are typically capped at 30 hours per week, which makes them technically part time. Unlike other employees, however, they say they've been reclassified so that they don't earn the same benefits.
"According to our own employee handbook, regular part time Amazon employees working 20-29 hours a week receive a minimum of 12 paid days off a year in accrued Paid Time Off (PTO) and Paid Floating Holidays," the group said in their petition, which currently has over 4,000 signatures. "At DSM1, we receive 0 paid days off a year."
In a statement provided to BuzzFeed, an Amazon spokesperson said the company "is proud to offer great wages paying $15 per hour or more. Benefits vary based on a variety of factors but if someone wanted to move to a role that offered regular, full-time benefits we expect to have more than a thousand of those roles in Sacramento throughout the year." California's minimum wage is currently $12 but is slated to increase by a dollar per year until it hits $15. The state is also the second most expensive in the country and is currently experiencing a housing crisis.
"The fact is that Amazon is a trillion dollar company run by the richest man in the world,” workers said in their petition. Recode reported that workers called their tasks "back-breaking," no matter how many hours they work a week. “They intentionally give all class q part-time workers less benefits than regular part-time workers so that they grow the company at our expense," the petition added. "We’ve had enough."
This is far from the first time workers for the company have decried their working conditions. In August, BuzzFeed reported on the chaos, devastation, and sometimes even death that resulted from delivery mandates that workers felt were functionally impossible and unsafe. July marked claims from workers in Chicago who said the company owed them overtime wages after they fulfilled orders brought in by the annual Prime Day sales, which more and more people are boycotting in a move of solidarity with workers. (European activists have orchestrated similar protests on Black Friday.) And last December, workers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, walked out of their fulfillment center to protest what they told Wired were "inhumane" demands; many of them were Muslim Somali immigrants.
"Amazon doesn’t work if you don’t work,” Congresswoman Ilhan Omar told the crowd that day last year. “It’s about time we make Amazon understand that.”