FulfillmentCenter_BWI5_sorting_packages
Amazon Sortation Center BWI5, photographed Thursday, June 29, 2017, in Baltimore, MD

Amazonians speak up

Employees share their experiences working in Amazon fulfillment centers.
September 05, 2018
For hundreds of thousands of associates, Amazon provides competitive pay, health insurance, disability insurance, retirement savings plans, company stock, and flexible schedules for new parents, along with opportunities to learn skills and further develop their careers.

After Senator Sanders asked Amazon associates to let him know what it’s like to work in one of our fulfillment centers, several shared their responses with us. Here are a few examples:
  1. Amazon associate at Lakeland, Florida fulfillment center

    Dear Senator Sanders,

    Let me first get two things off the table before I share my Amazon story. First, I am a 61-year-old conservative entry level associate with Amazon. Second, I think you should have been the 2016 presidential nominee for the Democratic Party.

    Now, during the last six years as an Amazon employee I have been paid fairly, qualified for my three weeks of annual vacation, allowed another 48 hours of personal paid time off per year, shared in the monthly performance bonuses (half of which is based on my personal attendance only) and had numerous opportunities to work additional voluntary overtime. As someone who enjoys physical work, I have never once been written up for poor performance. I think where your criticism is skewed is by not understanding our business. Amazon is very clear with all new hires that the work is demanding and at times highly repetitive. Unfortunately, there are many people who believe they can make the cut and don't.

    Let me suggest that Amazon is a non-governmental version of your societal vision. Your staff should start touring the Amazon Fulfillment Center's and take some notes before you proceed with your criticism. I also think you should understand that a position with Amazon includes mobility.

    I worked for five years at the Murfreesboro, Tennessee branch and was allowed a transfer to our Lakeland, Florida branch in order to help my youngest son recover from an illness. Same pay, same benefits!

    Good luck in the future,
    Gerald
  2. Amazon associate at Phoenix, Arizona fulfillment center

    Senator Sanders,

    I'd like to first applaud the movement you have created on behalf of the citizens of our great country. I have respected your independence and followed you through "Lunch with Bernie" segments on Thom Hartmann's show. The energy you have created for your platform is simply impressive. I would like to share my experience at Amazon which, admittedly, will not align with your perception of Amazon.

    A little about me: I was the oldest son of third generation electricians. My family had our own business and I was set to carry on the tradition of working summers and school breaks honing my craft until High School graduation when I began this full time. To this day, my time working alongside my grandfather and father has a tremendous imprint on my life, work ethic and curiosity of the world.

    Life took a different turn for me in my early twenties and I found my way in telecommunications where I stayed for fifteen years traveling all over the country leading teams that rebuilt fiber optic systems, helped complete the Naval-Marine Corp intranet and supplied NASA seat maintenance. The entrepreneurial bug that runs in my family genes got the best of me and my wife and we started our own business in 2003. When the economy turned in 2008 business changed, our customers changed, buying habits and the e-commerce footprint was increasing. We hung on for two more years believing our efforts would not go for naught and things would improve for us and our valued customers. Ultimately we could not continue to provide for our family. We had spent our life savings, including retirement on the "American Dream", enjoyed five great years and two very challenging years in doing so. Still, no regrets and I would never say never to another chance to launch another start-up.

    With our “rainy day fund” depleted and no formal higher education (only trade and experience), I began to look at jobs in my old field of telecommunications when I came across an ad for Amazon. I applied and sat through seven hours of interviews and waiting with the thought that this would hold me over until I found the right fit in my previous career path. I was hired on as an entry level warehouse associate working nights. Within a couple of months, I was fascinated with the complexity behind a simple click and knew I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to grow my leadership skills in this new career. Over the next year, I did not miss a day of work, honed my interview skills through repeated mock interviews with top talent leaders and allowed my curiosity to take me everywhere. I felt strongly I would succeed as a leader at Amazon and set a goal to leverage my past business and leadership experience to move into management.

    One year later, I was excited to get the chance to interview for an internal promotion into leadership. I felt the interview went well and went home and told my wife I think I have a good chance at this. Two days later, I got the news – I was not inclined for promotion. My feedback? I was too concerned with our competitors and not embracing the culture of customer-centricity including our internal customers – our associates. To be honest, my feedback provider was expecting me to be dejected. I was not, I was more determined than ever. I relished the idea of being evaluated against the best college and industry candidates including MBA graduates and get the chance to play on the highest level. I had to wait ninety days which was great for further prep, curiosity, and application. But once I hit the ninety-day mark, I applied again. I am proud to say that the first interview is now seven years in my rear view mirror and the last interview I was not inclined. I have since been promoted three times and currently lead the outbound department at one of our Arizona warehouses, fulfilling customer promised orders daily.

    I came to Amazon with no savings, facing bankruptcy, two kids to support and desperate to find an opportunity. Eight years later, we now have two kids in college, have replaced our retirement money lost in our business through Amazon’s 401K, enjoy multiple weeks of vacation and personal time each year, have excellent health and life insurance for our family and enjoy a good life because of the opportunities Amazon has provided me. Make no mistake, it was not given to me, I have worked for it. I enjoy being challenged as a leader and person and working with similar individuals.

    The great thing about America is we can, or at least should, be able to disagree on different topics. This is an area I have to disagree with you based on what I have seen in my eight years with Amazon.

    Respectfully,
    Scott
  3. Amazon associate at Dallas, Texas fulfillment center

    Senator Sanders,

    I've worked at Amazon since 2016 as an Operations Manager after graduating from Northwestern University's JD/MBA program. As a Democrat committed to correcting social injustice and providing an opportunity for all to succeed, I respectfully reject the premise of the leading question you are asking. After spending six years on active duty in the Marine Corps and currently serving in the Reserves, Amazon has been extremely supportive of my career in the military, aggressively recruits and promotes military veterans, and cultivates a culture of trust and commitment that is similar to the culture I experienced in the Marine Corps. Amazon has many warehouses in low-income areas, providing vital jobs to these communities. The workers at my building in Dallas at FTW1 are respected, valued, and the leadership team prioritizes serving our associates and removing barriers from their work environment. Safety is our top priority and we commit to provide a safe, fun work environment. We have a Voice of the Associate board where our associates can voice any concerns they have out on the floor, our General Manager has an open door policy where anyone in the warehouse can have a meeting with him, we have appeals panels made up of peers if an associate feels they were unjustly written up, and the entire leadership team walks the floor for Gemba where we hear about barriers our associates are facing on the floor. Our entry-level associates have the same health plan as our GM and every one of our permanent associates receive company stock. In addition to all the protections we have for our workers here at our building, we have an Amazon Cares Committee that has given back to the community that we live in through donations as well as volunteering our time in the community. In short, Amazon has been a great working environment for me, has allowed me to have an impact in my associates’ lives by providing guidance through events like Resume Workshops, and has provided me great perspective on how to effectively lead people. I’m happy to talk more about my experiences if it’d be a value add.

    Best,
    Derrik
  4. Amazon associate at Fresno, California fulfillment center

    Dear Senator Sanders,

    I voted for you in the Presidential Primary Election because I appreciate your vision for our nation (especially with regard to higher learning). One thing that you did in your race was to make an appearance on Bill Maher's show when the others did not show up. You were concise and focused on your vision. Well done sir! However, I am not writing to just gush as a fan. I am writing to you today as a proud "Amazonian." I have been employed full time with Amazon at the new FAT-1 Amazon Fulfillment Center in Fresno, CA since it opened in June 2018. My family has been through a tough road in these past several years. My husband of 22 years and I have become empty nesters after our 9th child left the nest last year. At that time I began seeking employment after years away from the job world. Having put off completing my higher learning degree, opting instead for a certificate in a job path I am no longer interested in, I had few options. Until Amazon built a Fulfillment Center in my home town, Fresno, CA. Let me tell you, I had reservations! Reservations based on some of the same incorrect rumors you have probably heard. Amazon has blessed me with more than I could have dreamed of!

    Over the years, I have read news articles on the working conditions at Amazon facilities. These scared me quite frankly when I was faced with the decision to apply for employment with them. But, I really needed to obtain employment so I mustered up all my courage and went through the application process. Drum roll please... Yes, I got the job. The offer said it is full time and to expect long 10 hour days. As the dread feeling entered my 47 year old heart, kind of shook my head and told myself, "See, I guess those news reports were right". I reasoned with myself that I should just give it a try just to see how true it all is and then I could find another place to work having gained the truth about Amazon. I then attended the orientation.

    During the orientation, I took notes vigorously to see if they were somehow planning to skirt the law at my expense regarding their long hours and other conditions. I found out AMAZON IS FOR THE CUSTOMER, "CUSTOMER CENTRIC", they said. This just thrilled me as a person who loves making people happy. Their mission and my personal ethos are congruent. That kept me interested and moving forward in the new hire process. The orientation gave everyone up-front pros and cons of working there. The pros first and foremost... I would be an owner of Amazon. I didn't know how much my one share would be worth but someone said they thought it was at $17. I thought, "It is not worth much but it's a nice idea on their part". As you may know that one share is worth $2,000. That is valued higher than Microsoft, Google, or Facebook! Over time it will be part of my future stability and I will be given more as time and promotions go on! They spoke of hourly wages and possibly working 4 10 hour days per week. During off season we'd have 3 days off. During Prime Week and the busy season we would have to work an extra 10 hour day. I began to feel overwhelmed at that prospect. Then the worst part in my mind at that time was said, "There are no chairs at Amazon". Did I mention my age? I am 47, my longest employment was as a counselor sitting on chairs and couches. I feared my body would not be able to be subjected to such treatment. Then they spoke of employee benefits. We get full medical, vision, and dental coverage from our very first day. I needed to go to a decent physician, dentist, and my eye doctor. I have found Medicaid severely lacking in my state (But that's another topic). I needed it so much, I stayed. A benefit they spoke of made me have a small change of heart. EDUCATION! Amazon pays 95% of tuition and books if I give them 1 year of my time. They don't even mind if I want to become a Registered Nurse. As long the Dept. of Labor says the job is in demand, Amazon pays! I went through the final steps of the hiring process scoured through the Employment Agreement for any lurking ill intention they may have in store for me, finding none, I became an official Amazonian!

    My next challenge was getting to work. I do not drive. I live in Fresno, they are here too. The problem is that we are on opposite ends leaving me a 30 minute commute. Amazon offered this benefit to all employees. A carpool app who they partnered with to provide us free rides to and from work. We were given 30 days to enroll in our benefits of choice. I found out there are so many options, it took almost all 30 days to get through them all and to finalize my decisions.

    On my "Day One" working there I began training to my position. Being a new facility, my trainer was an Amazonian Learning Ambassador from Texas. She trained myself and 2 other people thoroughly on the details of the job. She worked with us for several weeks until we performed our job accurately. Amazon is all about safety they seem to strive to ensure we leave work in the same shape we came in. They actually tell us that. However, to date, they have exceeded their goal with me. I have lost weight and am in the best shape I have possibly ever been in! Aside from the long distances we walk because the facility is so large, I also have a job that gives me a great workout. I do have expectation that I have to meet but any type of job in this type of industry does. If I were to fall short there is no one there to scold me. I have seen others who we not meeting these expectations and our managers simply give them help to bring them up. They really go the extra distance in helping to mentor, coach, and give opportunities to us. They all can do our jobs so they fill in for people if they need to take a bathroom break. There has been a lot said about bathroom breaks on the news. I believe some fellow Amazonians who are still in the human development stage of life try and test out if they can use the restroom when they are supposed to be working. Managers or Process Assistants always fill in for them without any question. It is not frowned upon. Which brings me to the respect that our managers give all of us. I have not witnessed or heard anything different, we are all treated with the greatest respect. If they do have to "speak to you" about something, it does not feel like you are in trouble. You leave them saying, "Thank you" because they may have corrected you but at the same time they have done it in an esteem-raising way.

    I actually own part of Amazon, I am thrilled and quite relieved that all the rumors I had previously feared have not been true. I was able to stretch as required 2 times daily and prepare my body to handle standing. I adjusted to working full time.

    Amazon gave us a raise already and at 6, 12, 18...months, we receive another. To me, Amazon has been a gift that keeps on giving. I am so grateful for this company. I am a proud Amazonite.

    Deana
But don't take our word for it. We encourage anyone to come see what its like to work at Amazon by taking a tour at one of our fulfillment centers or peek behind the scenes at Amazon Vest Life on Instagram.
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