Amazon prioritized finding ‘wicked smart’ college grads for management roles over promoting hourly workers within the ranks, according to a new report

amazon warehouse
More than 75% of managers at Walmart stores in the US began as hourly workers, according to The New York Times.

  • Amazon kept hourly workers from getting promoted by seeking out new college grads to fill management roles, NYT reports.
  • By comparison, Walmart reportedly promotes hourly workers at roughly double the rate of Amazon.
  • Amazon has a minimum wage of $15 for all workers, a pay floor Walmart has not officially enacted.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Walmart – the country’s largest private employer and Amazon’s biggest competitor – promotes hourly employees to managers at roughly double the rate at Amazon, according to a new New York Times report.

More than 75% of managers at Walmart stores in the US began as hourly workers, the Times reported. Amazon, for example, last year promoted only about 220 of 5,000 employees at the JFK8 warehouse on Staten Island, according to the Times. It’s part of a plan at Amazon to fill management roles with “wicked smart” college graduates, one former executive told the outlet.

David Niekerk, a former human resources vice president who stepped down in 2016, told The Times Amazon prevented hourly employees from achieving promotions by design, and said the firm’s then-head of operations shot down a 2014 proposal to create more leadership roles for these workers.

The lengthy report examined how Amazon has kept business flowing amid a pandemic. One of the biggest revelations reported by the Times was how quickly Amazon burns through hourly employees, leaving some executives to fear that they may run out of new workers.

Before the pandemic, Amazon lost 3% of hourly workers each week, resulting in an annual turnover rate of 150%, according to documents reviewed by The Times.

In 2019, Walmart said its turnover rate for store employees is down 10% to the lowest level in five years. Across the industry, the National Retail Federation reported six out of every 10 employees has been promoted.

Amazon, which flourished during the COVID-19 pandemic as Americans spent more on e-commerce than in-store shopping, announced it would hire 75,000 people across US in Canada with a starting pay. of more than $17 and a signing bonus of up to $1,000. The retailer also increased pay by up to $3 an hour for 500,000 current workers.

Read more: Target is recovering from a sweeping back-end system failure, affecting everything from payroll software to call centers, just 2 years after its cash registers crashed around the globe

The online retailer repeatedly touts their $15 minimum wage – a benchmark Walmart has not officially set for its workforce yet. In a Bloomberg article published late last year, an Amazon spokesperson brought attention to the fact Walmart has “yet to join” Amazon in raising its minimum wage to $15.

Jeff Bezos envisions Amazon as “Earth’s best employer and Earth’s safest place to work” in his final letter to shareholders as chief executive. Bezos wrote he will renew his commitment to helping reduce work-related injuries and increase employee satisfaction as Executive Chair.

“If we want to be Earth’s Best Employer, we shouldn’t settle for 94% of employees saying they would recommend Amazon to a friend as a place to work,” Bezos wrote in April. “We have to aim for 100%.”

Walmart and Amazon were not immediately available for comment.

Got a tip? Contact Insider reporter Allana Akhtar at aakhtar@insider.com. We can keep sources anonymous.

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Amazon warehouse workers are reportedly almost twice as likely to face serious injuries compared to rivals like Walmart

Amazon warehouse staff
  • Amazon warehouse workers are more likely to get injured than those at competing companies, according to Washington Post analysis.
  • For every 100 Amazon employees about 5.9 were injured in 2020, as compared to 2.5 at Walmart warehouses.
  • Amazon said the company has actively been working to boost safety protocol at fulfillment centers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Amazon warehouse workers are more likely to get injured than employees at comparable companies like Walmart, according to a report from The Washington Post.

In the past four years, the company has had the highest rate of serious injuries at its warehouses – incidents that led employees to stop working or change their role at Amazon, the publication found.

Last year the company reported over 24,400 injuries and about 12% of the warehouses that reported injuries in the US were owned by Amazon, according to data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) obtained by the Post. The publication collected its own data, but based its story off a report from the Strategic Organizing Center (SOC).

Employees at Amazon warehouses are nearly twice as likely to report serious injuries, according to the SOC report, which found that for every 100 employees there were 5.9 Amazon injuries reported last year, as compared to 2.5 at Walmart warehouses.

An Amazon spokesperson told Insider the company has been actively working to make fulfillment centers safer and avoid workplace injuries.

“We grew our dedicated workplace health and safety team to more than 6,200 employees and invested more than $1B in new safety measures in 2020 – expanding programs like WorkingWell, and implementing new technology and processes, PPE, and enhanced cleaning and sanitization to protect against COVID-19,” the spokesperson said. “While any incident is one too many, we are continuously learning and seeing improvements through ergonomics programs, guided exercises at employees’ workstations, mechanical assistance equipment, workstation setup and design, and forklift telematics and guardrails – to name a few.”

An expert said the injuries could be attributed to Amazon’s high productivity goals, though the OSHA data does not break down the root of the workplace injuries. Debbie Berkowitz, a former OSHA chief of staff, who now works at a worker advocacy group, told The Post that Amazon’s employee metrics are too lofty and pointed to Amazon’s performance-tracking system that gauges each employee’s productivity level.

Though workplace injuries at Amazon were still higher than at other warehouses in 2020, the number of injuries slightly decreased. The number of incidents dropped around the same time the company briefly halted its performance-tracking system in order to give workers more time to meet COVID-19 safety standards, according to The Post.

In April, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said in his final letter to shareholders that the company is working to implement new tools in order to prevent musculoskeletal disorders – an issue that accounts for about 40% of workplace injuries. He said the company needs “to do a better job for our employees” and told shareholders Amazon will invest over $300 million in 2021 to make warehouses safer.

Since the pandemic started, Amazon has continued to grow at a record pace. Last month, the company announced its plans to hire another 75,000 workers in the US and Canada for its fulfillment centers, as well as transportation sector.

The e-commerce giant’s $17 per hour average starting pay has made Amazon an increasingly attractive employment option. Experts told Insider in May that the company’s higher pay opportunities pose a threat to other minimum wage jobs.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

Have you been injured at an Amazon warehouse? Reach out to the reporter at gkay@insider.com.

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A worker found a red noose entangled in electrical cords at an Amazon construction site in Connecticut, the 8th noose found at the site

A crane in front of the facility under construction on Kennedy Road, Windsor, Connecticut
Amazon’s Windsor, Connecticut, facility.

  • An Amazon site in Connecticut has been shut down for the second time after an eighth noose was found there.
  • The red noose was wrapped around electrical cords, the police department said.
  • Local NAACP officials and town leaders described the incident as “deplorable” and “sickening.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A construction worker found a red noose at an Amazon site in Windsor, Connecticut, on Wednesday, forcing the company to shut the building site for the second time over safety concerns.

Eight nooses have been found at the site within the past month.

The eighth noose was found “mixed in with and entangled with electrical cords,” a police department press release said on Wednesday, per CNN. The cords had “not been used for more than two weeks and were being stored on a pallet amongst other electrical equipment on the floor,” it said.

Amazon and the site developer are offering $100,000 for information on how the nooses got there.

The site was first closed down on May 20 after the seventh noose was spotted, so that cameras and other security measures could be put in place.

Local officials from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and town leaders denounced the incidents as hate crimes against Black people.

“We have a serious problem in America and it hasn’t gone away,” Scot X. Esdaile, president of the Connecticut NAACP, said Wednesday in a press briefing outside the warehouse site, per the Associated Press. “It’s deplorable. It’s sickening. It’s a sick mindset that Black people have to fight against.”

Nuchette Black-Burke, a Windsor town council member, said in the briefing that many staff at the Amazon site were scared to go into work.

“Many people don’t understand our history,” she said. “A noose? People’s heads were put in those and hung from trees, hung from different places. So while people may think that someone’s doing this just for giggles and ha-has, no, it’s real history that impacts.”

Black-Burke said she’s putting pressure on Amazon to put an end to the problem.

The first noose was reported on April 27 “hanging from a steel beam on the second floor of the building,” a supervisor for the construction firm working on the Amazon facility said.

Insider contacted the Windsor police department for comment, but did not immediately receive a response. Chief Donald Melanson said Amazon would reopen the site on Thursday, per CNN.

Amazon didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The company told CNN in a statement: “Hate, racism or discrimination have no place in our society and are certainly not tolerated in any Amazon workplace – whether it be under construction like this one, or fully operational.

“We will continue to work with all levels of law enforcement as well as our development partners, to hold the perpetrators accountable and ensure that all members of our community feel valued, respected and safe.”

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More than 600 Amazon workers sign petition demanding the company reduce its warehouse pollution in communities of color

Jeff Bezos
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who will step down in July.

  • Hundreds of Amazon workers signed a petition calling on the company to reduce emissions to zero by 2023.
  • They say that emissions from Amazon warehouses disproportionately affect communities of color.
  • Amazon has previously pledged to go completely carbon neutral by 2040.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

More than 600 Amazon workers have signed a petition calling for the company to eliminate its carbon emissions by 2023, saying pollution from the e-commerce giant’s warehouses is “disproportionately concentrated in communities of color.”

The workers, who are not named publicly, say Amazon must first deploy zero-emissions technologies in communities most affected by pollution from the trucks and other vehicles going in and out of distribution hubs. The group also cites a 2014 study that found people of color are exposed to an average of 38% more toxic air pollution than their white counterparts.

“We want to be proud of where we work,” the petition says. “A company that lives up to its statements about racial equity and closes the racial equity gaps in its operations is a critical part of that.”

The petition comes as Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting takes place Wednesday, including investor proposals regarding reports from the company on packaging waste and on “environmental racism.

This isn’t the first time Amazon employees have pushed the company to make changes to better serve the environment. Insider reported that 7,700 employees signed a petition in 2020 calling for the company “to develop a plan to stop using fossil fuels. They also wanted it to stop going after customers in the oil and gas industries,” adding that, “Amazon Web Services has an entire unit dedicated to serving this market.”

Amazon in 2019 pledged to go completely carbon neutral by 2040 as one of the founding companies of the “climate pledge.” Founder Jeff Bezos has also pledged $10 million to fight climate change globally through his Bezos Earth Fund initiative.

But some critics pushed back on this initiative, saying that the company should be combating climate change on a more intimate level, taking aim at Amazon’s excessive packaging.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Bernie Sanders applauds the ‘courage’ of Amazon workers for taking on the tech giant, says failed union vote will inspire other unionization efforts

sanders bezos amazon senate budget
Sen. Bernie Sanders, left, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, right. Getty Images

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders said Amazon workers will inspire other union-organizing efforts.
  • Workers at the Bessemer, Alabama, Amazon plant voted the union down 1,798 to 738.
  • Sanders has previously criticized Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for trying to stop unionization efforts.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sen. Bernie Sanders applauded Amazon workers at the Bessemer, Alabama, factory for taking on the company, even as a majority of votes were against unionizing.

“The willingness of Amazon workers in Bessemer to take on the wealthiest man in the world and a powerful company in an anti-union state is an inspiration,” Sanders said on Twitter, in response to news of the failed union attempt. “It takes an enormous amount of courage to stand up and fight back, and they should be applauded.”

The intense campaigning from union activists and Amazon ended with a decisive victory for the online retailer, as 1,798 workers voted against the union, and 738 workers voted for it.

In further tweets, Sanders said he agrees with calls for an investigation into the tactics the company used in its efforts to defeat the organizing attempt.

“The workers were up against a company that was willing to spend vast sums of money and use every kind of tactic there is to defeat them,” he said.

“The history of every struggle in this country tells us that we do not always win the first time out,” Sanders added. “But I believe, as a result of their courage, workers in Alabama will inspire significant growth in union organizing efforts around the country.”

Read more: Amazon employees blast the forced return to offices as unfair, and Facebook and Oracle appear to be trying to poach frustrated remote workers

Progressive International, a global organization that backs progressive ideas, said efforts to create an Amazon union, even as it was rejected, “planted powerful seeds to #MakeAmazonPay.”

In a statement, Amazon thanked employees for participating in the election, and said, “There’s been a lot of noise over the past few months, and we’re glad that your collective voices were finally heard.”

“It’s easy to predict the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true,” the statement read.

Sanders had been sparring with Amazon in the weeks leading up to the union vote and even visited workers at the Bessemer, Alabama warehouse.

Prior to that, the Vermont senator criticized Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for not showing up to a Congressional hearing and said had the executive been present he would have said, “you’re the wealthiest person in the world. Why are you doing everything in your power to stop your workers in Bessemer, Alabama, from joining a union?”

The company later fired back at the senator, with Amazon Consumer Chief Dave Clark tweeting Sanders “should save his finger wagging lecture until after he actually delivers in his own backyard,” referencing minimum wage legislation.

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Amazon is hiring 5,000 new employees in Germany, with some roles paying up to $82,000 per year

This picture shows the logo of US online retail giant Amazon at the distribution center in Moenchengladbach, western Germany, on December 17, 2019.
The company recently expanded its logistics empire to cope with rising demand over the holiday season.

  • Amazon will hire 5,000 more permanent employees in Germany in areas from shipping to marketing.
  • In a press release, the company said it encouraged applications from those seeking job security.
  • Entry-level Amazon logistics wages range from $13.25 to $14.90 per hour but are location-dependent.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Amazon already has 23,000 employees in Germany but is now looking to add more people to its workforce.

The delivery giant said in a press release on Friday that it would hire another 5,000 staff in areas from shipping to marketing.

Most Amazon employees work in logistics, where entry-level wages range from $13.25 to $14.90 gross per hour depending on the location. Germany’s current minimum wage is $11.14 per hour but will rise to $12.26 by July 2022.

At its logistics center in S├╝lzetal near Magdeburg, the minimum is $13.92 per hour; in Koblenz, it is $14.19; at the air freight handling facility in Leipzig it’s $15.83. Wages automatically rise after 12 and 24 months.

After two years, employees earned an average of around $3,500 gross per month including restricted employee shares, according to Amazon. There were bonus payments and other benefits.

It hasn’t been an easy year for the German branch of Amazon, with workers striking in June over rising COVID-19 infections at the company and again in October after their COVID-19 bonus payments were scrapped.

German trade union Verdi called for a four-day strike at Easter to demand a pay rise for workers in the retail and mail-order sectors. Amazon has also been subjected to an antitrust investigation over relationships with its third-party sellers in Germany.

In its press release, Amazon said it was calling for applications from those worried about the future of their jobs and was recruiting from a wide range of sectors.

Amazon Logistics Center
Amazon has 15 logistics centers spread across Germany.

“This is a great opportunity for career changers because we are open to a wide range of talents and qualifications,” said Amazon Germany country manager Ralf Kleber.

The company’s German headquarters are located in Munch while its research and development center is in Berlin. There are also a total of 15 logistics centers spread across the country.

Amazon itself does not provide any information about the salaries offered to employees in other sectors. According to employer rating portal Kununu, customer service employees earn about the same as their colleagues in warehouse and shipping.

Kununu’s data showed an account manager at Amazon earned almost $67,000 per year while a marketing officer earned around $62,000 and a human resources officer around $60,000.

According to Glassdoor, software engineers earn significantly more with a salary of over $82,000.

The company recently expanded its logistics empire to cope with rising demand over the holiday season and its delivery service could be worth up to $230 billion by 2025, according to Bank of America estimates.

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Leaked documents reveal how Amazon built a Twitter army to defend itself in a secret project codenamed ‘Veritas’

Amazon Jeff Bezos
Amazon’s Twitter army has defended it against criticism over the company’s labor practices.

Amazon is facing a fresh round of scrutiny over the army of warehouse workers it enlisted to defend the company and CEO Jeff Bezos on Twitter against criticism of the company’s grueling working conditions.

On Tuesday, The Intercept published leaked documents detailing the program, which Amazon launched in 2018 under the codename “Veritas,” revealing how Amazon recruited and trained employees to “set the record straight – leaving no lie unchallenged and showing that people who actually know what it’s like to work in our FCs love their jobs.”

Amazon required the “ambassadors” to “have a strong performance background and clean HR record, be authentic, have a great sense of humor, and be excited about speaking their mind and rebutting our critics in a polite, blunt way,” according to the internal documents obtained by The Intercept.

In a pilot test for Veritas, Amazon employees practiced pushing back against criticism that Bezos should be taxed higher, a post by Sen. Bernie Sanders interviewing a worker who said they experienced suicidal thoughts as a result of Amazon’s working conditions, and even reporting by Insider about workers urinating in bottles because they feared punishment for being “off task.”

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Amazon’s Twitter army came back under the spotlight this week amid a landmark effort by warehouse employees in its Bessemer, Alabama, facility to unionize – the largest such effort in the company’s history.

This week, dozens of Twitter accounts, portraying themselves as Amazon warehouse employees, began responding to new reports that warehouse and delivery staff still have to pee in bottlesor, in some cases, defecate in bags.

But Twitter shut down some of the accounts after Gizmodo reported that at least one was likely not a real person. (Amazon told The New York Times’ Karen Weise that the account was fake and that it had reported the account to Twitter).

Amazon’s top executives and public relations teams have also become increasingly confrontational on Twitter recently, sparring publicly with lawmakers including Sens. Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as well as Rep. Mark Pocan.

The tweets, which The Intercept reported were so antagonistic that Amazon’s security team even though the company might have been hacked, were sparked because “Jeff Bezos was pissed,” according to Recode.

In one instance, Amazon’s official PR account replied to Rep. Pocan, saying “You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us.”

Amazon, which has been openly and aggressively anti-union, has deployed a range of union-busting tactics, from pushing company talking points during mandatory midnight “education” meetings to changing the timing of traffic lights near its facilities. The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, under which Amazon employees are seeking to organize, said the move was a ploy to stop its members from talking to workers stopped at red lights.

The company also reactivated its Twitter ambassadors to respond to a recent wave of criticism about the “pee bottles” and other complaints workers have raised about working conditions.

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Amazon is using new AI-powered cameras in delivery trucks that can sense when drivers yawn. Here’s how they work.

amazon prime van delivery
  • Amazon has installed AI-equipped camera systems in all of its delivery vehicles.
  • The Netradyne system can be triggered by a yawn or a speeding.
  • The new system has sparked some backlash from workers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In February, The Information reported on an instructional video for Amazon delivery drivers announcing a new suite of artificial intelligence-equipped cameras to surveil drivers during the entirety of their routes.

The decision sparked some backlash, and one driver told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the policy change had driven him to quit, calling it an invasion of privacy. But how does it work?

In the introductory video shown to drivers, Amazon’s senior manager for last-mile safety Karolina Haraldsdottir, explains how the “camera-based video safety technology” works.

The camera system is called “Driveri” and manufactured by the AI and transportation startup Netradyne. Four cameras give 270 degrees of coverage: one faces out through the windshield, two face out the side windows, and one faces the driver.

The cameras do not automatically upload, Haraldsdottir stressed in the video. A live feed only comes after the AI detects a problem. There are 16 behaviors that an AI recognizes that trigger the upload, from distracted driving to speeding to “driver drowsiness.”

Amazon Driveri instruction video
A still from the instructional video on Amazon’s Netradyne camera system

Haraldsdottir also stressed that the camera system can be used to “exonerate drivers from blame in safety incidents” and that drivers can trigger a manual upload if there is a safety issue they want to report.

In the report about a driver quitting as a result of this new system, the former employee saw the system as a “sort of coercion.”

Amazon has faced controversy over claims of surveillance in the past. In January of this year, more than 200 workers signed a petition sent to the CEO Jeff Bezos asking for an end to what the employees called “labor surveillance” ahead of unionization efforts.

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