CHICAGO — According to reports, Amazon had quietly transitioned its warehouse workers across the US to a graveyard shift dubbed the “megacycle.” Grassroots group Amazonians United has been lobbying against this change, with online petitions for both Amazon workers and community allies to protest against these “inhumane” working conditions.
“Amazon’s change in delivery station shift schedules is throwing our lives into chaos,” the employees’ petition stated. “They give us 2 weeks to decide between caring for our family and having a job.”
As its name suggests, the megacycle is a long warehouse shift that combines shorter shifts into one. A megacycle shift is ten and a half hours in duration, running from 1:20 AM to 11:50 AM, four days a week, according to Vice.
The megacycle was introduced on January 25, when Amazon announced that it was shutting down its Chicago delivery station, DCH1. The e-commerce leviathan gave its workers an ultimatum: transfer to one of three new facilities or lose their jobs.
Transferring to the new warehouse, however, came with a catch: workers would have to work under the “brutal” megacycle model.
PHOTO Courtesy of Amazonians United
“This is an unacceptable level of corporate control over our lives,” wrote Amazons United, which has described the shift as “anti-family.”
According to the group, about 80% of Chicago Amazon workers are Black and 15% are Latinx, with a majority of women who are also mothers and single-parents with young children.
The organization is making four demands in solidarity with Amazon workers, including shift schedule accommodations for those who can only work a portion of the shifts; a US$2/hour shift differential for megacycle workers; Lyft transportation to and from work; and finally, 20-minute paid breaks.
“Amazon is forcing them, during a pandemic, to choose between a 10-hour shift or caring for their children,” Amazonians United wrote.
The COVID-19 pandemic has induced a “she-cession,” in which women workers are disproportionately affected by the economic downfall. Women have experienced higher levels of unemployment because they have been forced to fulfill domestic duties or work service-sector jobs.
According to Global News, the women-dominated service sector has been ravaged by the pandemic-induced recession.
“It is very, very clear that the brunt of this recession has been borne by women, at least at that initial stage,” Tammy Schirle, economics professor at Wilfrid Laurier University told Global.
This gender disparity manifested even in the early months of the pandemic. According to Schirle, women accounted for 62% of job losses between late February and March 2020. During the same period, women also lost 50% more work hours than men altogether.
The Canadian government has proposed a C$100 million investment to support women whose livelihoods have been battered by the pandemic. The funding will allow women to expand an existing business or act as seed money for a new endeavour.
Community petition in support of Amazon warehouse employees (PHOTO Courtesy of Amazonians United)
According to Vice, DCH1 workers had the choice of several shift options, including a five-hour morning slot and an eight-hour overnight slot that ends at 4:45 AM.
Chicago Amazon employees, however, were not the only ones subjected to this new system. Vice reported that the multinational corporation had been implementing the megacycle structure to warehouses across the US in recent months.
More than half of Amazon’s last-mile delivery network has adopted the model that would increase productivity and delivery speed for customers at the expense of its own workers’ health and safety, according to Vice.
Amazonians United contended that Amazon — valued at about US$1.7 trillion, according to Business Insider — has the resources to provide fair working conditions and hours for its employees, but simply chooses not to.
“Amazon could easily provide schedule accommodations to its workers,” Amazonians United stated in its community petition.
“They have offered these accommodations in other locations, but they refuse to do so in Chicago. Amazon continues to rake in profits while workers bear the cost.”
PHOTO Courtesy ofM Amazonians United
Amazonians United is a labour’s rights group crusading for higher pay, safety, fairness, and respect for workers at Amazon.
“We’re stronger together, so we create worker organization at our sites with coworkers who are fed up with the bullshit and want to do something about it,” the organization’s mission statement read.
The group claimed it is holding a multinational monolith answerable to its actions that directly affect labourers.
“It’s not only important to be connected in our workplaces, but also to link up regionally, nationally and internationally — Amazon is a multinational corporation owned by the richest man in the world, we need an international worker movement to win!”
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