EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a confirmed employee of Amazon’s Kent fulfillment center, who wishes to remain anonymous:
Amazon’s Covid-19 / Gen Z Problem
I really struggled for a few days to decide if I wanted to write you this letter.
Last night however, I finally decided for my own safety and the safety of my co-workers, that it would be important to share my concerns with you and some facts regarding working at Amazon during the Covid-19 pandemic.
I currently work at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Kent, WA, just south of Seattle.
To be clear with you up front, I want you to know that I really enjoy working there.
I love my job at Amazon. I enjoy my co-workers. And I appreciate the work that we do.
On a normal day our warehouse holds roughly 25+ million items, and somehow the vast complexity of organizing and shipping those items is completely absent from the customers’ shopping experience. Everyday I look around in awe at the 25 miles of conveyor belts and thousands of robots in movement.
I also want you to know that for many of us working there right now, we feel a real sense of responsibility to the community to get people the things they need so they can continue to stay home and stay safe. And that responsibility has become very apparent in our workday. The normal day-to-day gamut of amusing novelty items, books, and collectables that an employee would process has become endless pallets of canned food, baby formula, diapers, and a wide array of survival items. Amazon employees are currently witnessing a very real visual change of the customers’ shopping habits. It’s depressing and disheartening. It makes it nearly impossible for one to lose themselves in their work and to try and forget what’s happening outside of the warehouse. The minutes and hours working at Amazon have begun to move very slow.
However, that is not what is concerning. What is cause for concern is Amazon’s biggest struggle right now which they themselves won’t tell you. I read in the news that our warehouse had its first confirmed case of an employee testing positive for Covid-19. I am not surprised by this at all. In fact, most days for me It’s not really a matter of if I get it, but it feels more like a matter of when. And the reason for that is the large amount of young people working at our warehouse that are not taking the 6ft rule seriously. While signs reminding employees to keep their distance from each other are posted literally everywhere you look and computers are reminding staff again each time they log into their stations; Amazon’s younger Generation Z workforce (those in their 20’s) are not taking the reminders seriously. Around every turn is a group of young people ignoring the 6 foot rule. In all of the outdoor break areas benches that used to seat 6 people have been taped off to now only allow 2 people at a bench, on opposite sides and at opposite ends. They ignore these changes. The rest of the bench is taped in bright orange Xs. You can still see 5 people sitting at a bench, 3 sitting on the orange taped off areas. They are unafraid and unbothered. As you walk around the building you still see groups of young people gathered together like they haven’t heard about Covid-19 at all.
Amazon has made clear of the 6ft suggestion everywhere, but they are doing absolutely zero to enforce it. There are no consequences for people breaking the 6ft CDC guideline. It is absolutely frustrating to see it so many countless times every day, all day. I decided to finally start taking pictures of how blatant the CDC guidelines were being broken inside the warehouse.
I’ve sent you this one. A picture of 4 young men conversing inside the warehouse, all within a couple feet of each other.
At their feet is a reminder to “Maintain 6 ft Distance at All Times” from each which they pay no mind to and probably don’t even notice. I could take countless photos of this similar scene every night, however I fear the repercussions if I get caught, as pictures are not allowed inside the building.
The most infuriating part of this situation is the simple fact that most Washingtonians were forced to lose their jobs because they could not be trusted to honor the CDC’s recommendation of 6ft distance so as to not spread Covid-19. So I wish the people that were being allowed to go to work were only those that understand the seriousness of that, and respected others in their community to honor it. This may not seem like a big deal to everyone, but what happens when these thousands of people go home to their families every night? Can we really trust Amazon’s lenient implementation of 6ft distance? I’m not sure if Amazon doesn’t have the legal authority to enforce this rule or if they are uninterested because they think the general public won’t know this is happening.