News Feb 3, 2016 at 4:00 am

Now They're Threatening to Unionize

Amazon’s campus at lunchtime. Workers are being asked to share their stories by a group called FACE. It stands for Former and Current Employees of Amazon. Kelly O


Nearly a quarter million employees and you found 80 that weren't happy? Sounds like most employees are happy. Not to mention the "comprehensive" NYT story had a source that left Amazon after an investigation revealed he had attempted to defraud vendors and conceal it by falsifying business records;

The Amazon culture is hard working. Amazon also awards their employees greatly for their hard work. This article and others tries to paint amazon as a corporate evil while it should be painting them as a company that awards employees financial for hard work. Amazon has been very good to the Seattle economy. I'm not sure why we hate on them so much. Maybe jealously for their financial gains?
I know people who work at Amazon, one who just had a nervous breakdown and needed to be hospitalized due to work stresses. Yes, Amazon rewards employees with fat salaries, but they're also expected to work ridiculous hours and be on call all the time.

This is one example, but I think the hate on Amazon is more than just jealously for financial gains.
Oh no!!! People are unhappy at work? Big f'ing deal.
Try being a mayor sometime.
@2: The whole "work all day and be on call all day" is becoming the norm for a lot of workplaces, unfortunately. Since people have the capability to be connected at all times now, it has become expected that they will be, and employees are terrified of asserting themselves.

This is definitely not an Amazon-only issue.
Yeah, Amazon gets shit for this because they're the biggest fish in the pond and have done little to ingratiate themselves to the community, but a lot of the stuff in that NYT article sounded like the kind of thing that is endemic in the tech industry as a whole (or law or a lot of other high-profile industries).

I do find it endlessly amusing that Amazon spent God knows how much money on Jay Carney to be their PR person after years of not even bothering with any sort of PR efforts, and the inimitable Carney and Co. took two months to launch a substantial defense against the NYT article, thereby putting it back into the news cycle and perpetuating the story. Pretty JV work right there.
What about all of us who don't even work there but have to deal with the Amholes on a daily basis? where is our blog? waaah!
Let a hundred flowers bloom.
@7: I find it kind of hard to believe people who work for Amazon are bigger assholes than the general public, could you elaborate on this?
Plenty of stories can be found from Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, etc., about a tough corporate culture, demanding long hours, on-call weekends and worse. Some people thrive in it and stay; others don't and leave (I know I would hate it).

People are being paid well and getting good benefits, and there is a steady stream of people eager to work there.

Does anyone really think "wide-ranging legislative action" is a good idea? How can Sydney let that one just slide by without comment?

@7, 10: I must know 50 Amazon employees, and they are pretty much like the people you meet in any large workplace: some jerks, but mostly just regular people. To label tens of thousands of people as assholes who "set the new standards for vulgarity" says a whole lot more about you than them.
@12 - I wonder what "wide-ranging legislative action" aimed at the labor standards of a specific company even means?
Going back to the NYT pieces that started the ball rolling . . . I read it thoroughly more than once after the firestorm started. Though not an current or former Amazon employee, it certainly didn't seem like a total hatchet job. Rather, it seemed more in the vein of a myth-busting piece. So Amazon isn't Shangri-la. What corporation in the 21st century is?

While the days of 24/7 bone crushing, back breaking physical labor might be over, at least in the US workplace, today the horrors now center around 24/7 punishing psychological and emotional abuse. Aren't you happy that progress has brought us so far?
The only guy I know who works for Amazon is happy there. But he openly admits that his experience might not be typical, because his department may get special treatment, for being "one of the few that actually turns a profit." His words.

He's never caught any flack for strolling into work at 10 AM, or working from home when he's sick, or taking longer on a project than estimated. He usually gets his weekly work done in 40 hours - although there are tough weeks where he puts in 60, and light weeks where he barely scrapes 30, filling time with side projects. He is of the opinion that employees who need 60+ hours on a regular basis to get their work done "aren't very good coders," and that's a failure of the interview process. On call is only one week out of every 3 or 4. @2 is just flat out wrong on that point.

But then, this is an employee who spent years working in restaurant and retail before getting a CS degree. He knows what ACTUAL hard work, shitty conditions, and employee abuse are. He's not some whiny privileged elite.
Is Jeff Bezos possibly the face behind FACE?
We exist to work. If you aren't drowning in a constant bath of stress hormones you can go ahead and shack up with the transients in The Jungle. If you aren't waking up every night in cold sweat because fight-or-flight nightmares haunt your every unconscious moment, get the hell out of this town.

This is living. The Company is life. Corporations are the real humans; we are ignorant cells, whose destiny is to be shed and replaced.

@22 finally a response from someone that appears to actually have read the NYT article.

The primary take-away of the original piece wasn't the lack of strong work ethic on anyone's part, but more of a reflection on how badly the corporate environment within Amazon had broken down, and the systemic abuse of managerial pilot programs that lead to advancement or elimination.

My husband works for another major Seattle-based company that sees a lot of ex-Amazon employees walk through their doors. His initial take on the demeanor of these individuals is, "Wow! Those people are bitter!"

This is coming from someone that's not prone to work gossip, nor does he normally divulge information about the hiring process with me out of respect for his company's confidentiality agreement -- and I'm his spouse and life-partner of 24 years. However, when I told him about the original NYT article, his recollection of various interviews with ex-Amazon employees pretty much confirmed the article's assertions.

Amazon might be a major contributor to Seattle's fiscal stability, but the negative impacts to Seattle's community seem to be rising about as quickly as the buildings popping up throughout the downtown area. From rapid gentrification (and rising costs) of neighborhoods that push out long-time residents and close smaller businesses that can't meet the new lease demands to the influx of "transplants" that are impacting the urban sprawl on the outskirts of the primarty metropolitan area, quickly consuming the natural environments that once made these areas desirable to live in or visit.

Then there's the "meat grinder" aspect of flooding the job market with Amazon's castouts, where those that don't float to the top are being turned out on the street to seek jobs -- jobs that might have gone to Washington residents -- in order to survive.

Increased revenue for Seattle proper is definitely a positive aspect of hosting an internationally known brand, but there is a need for balance to counter the negative impacts and effects of their rapid growth, and these companies should be held responsible for contributing to a healthy work culture that impacts Washington residents, both old and new, in positive ways.

Otherwise, you can expect more of these efforts to unionize, and see more by-products of this disposable culture -- like local communities that are forming coalitions to protect neighborhoods from increased gentrification, and in the case of Capitol Hill, a rise in hate crimes.


The moment you move into Washington and set up your more-or-less permanent address, you're a "Washington resident". Well, I suppose it takes a year to become a " legal resident," but whatever. So please spare us the Mossback superiority. Last time I checked, an American is free is to move and work anywhere in the US. Or is Washington state a foreign country? I can understand we 'Mericans griping about H1B visa holders stealing jobs, but now some guy from Minnesota or Florida is an interloper? Please.

Amazon is an amazing and a horrific place to work. I did three contracts there. And when I got the magical word "Amazon" on my resume, it really opened doors.

I know about a dozen FTs who are still there. 11 of them are miserable. The last one was miserable, but got herself transferred to a different department not run by a psychotic boss, and now she's much happier.

Takeaway: You work for the boss, NOT the company. I'm currently at the Evil Empire of Redmond, and the horror stories coming out of there would make Amazon sound like a Workers' Paradise. But I'm content enough. Why? Because I have a decent boss who doesn't have a Fuhrer complex. The other quality that makes her a good boss is that she shields me and my teammates from all the corporate horseshit.

So if you want to have a job that won't make you burst into tears and want to kill yourself...find a good manager. And then hold on to that manager for dear life. That's the advice I'd dispense to college graduates jumping into the job market. That, or go overseas and see how the other half lives.
@26 You're free to move here but leave the strip mall mid American, core power yoga, woo girl culture where you came from.... Amazon has annihilated Seattle in making it as stale as the rest of the country....Sounds like your feelings have been hurt a bit by the freeze; you may be a resident, but you'll never be a local.
I used to work for Amazon. You guys want a real story? I'll give you a real story. But here's the thing: I'm an adult who has held dozens of jobs. Amazon was not the worst place that I worked, but it was not the utopia that Jeff and his underlings pretend.

I worked in a datacenter in the middle of nowhere. I drove 150 miles a week for the gig, paying rent in another city to keep my job. I really enjoyed working there for the first year or so, and the pay and benefits made the commute worth it.

The manager of our manager's manager stated during an all-ranks sort of meeting said, "Well, if they had brains they wouldn't work in a datacenter."

When they spent a few million dollars on security measures that don't work but waste everyone's time, we followed protocol and were not-so-politely told to go f*** ourselves.

When they took away our personal tools and replaced our bags with transparent backpacks, we griped a little but continued to do our job.

When Linux and Mac technicians were told that they would have to share a Windows laptop with multiple other technicians in order to do their job, we grumbled but we continued to do our job. (If you're not a technician and you don't understand why this is a big deal, understand that you don't know why it's a big deal so you shouldn't judge)

When we were told that our reliable 10 hour 4 day a week job was going to move to rotating shifts every three months (Not only would your hours flip, but your days off as well), I recognized that there was no way I could POSSIBLY plan anything with my family for vacations or even something as simple as my son's graduation I said "Enough is enough" and I quit.

Amazon told us that they would "work with us" if the rotating shifts were impossible to manage. A coworker with legitimate issues was told, "For one hour a night you can use this phone and this computer to look for a new job. Enjoy!"

I'm not one of the 80. My situation is not isolated. I was fortunate enough to have a spouse that I could rely on while I looked for another job, but I was not the only one that WANTED out.

The *reason* I'm not one of the 80 is, as many people have pointed out, it's a job. Get a new one if you don't like it. When Amazon can't find employees because they've already burned everyone then maybe they'll start looking at their management chains.

I also don't blame "Amazon" as a company. I recognize that there are good departments and bad departments - basically boiling down to good managers and bad managers.

Speaking of which, over the course of a year I went from having 2 managers to 12, no s--t.

But I *do* blame Amazon as a company for essentially telling people to go screw themselves for complaining. That NYT article was dead on, and Jeff's dismissal of it puts him on the same level as Martin Shkreli.
@27 Seattle is literally full of strip malls, and has been since way before the population boom. Even if you only count the upper white half of the city as "Seattle," all of these neighborhoods also have strip malls. Ditto with yoga studios, core power or not. The phrase 'woo girls' is lazy, slightly misogynist, and was coined, I believe, by a network television sitcom. Seattle is wonderful, and I love it. I'm from Everett, moved here in my early twenties, and have lived here ever since. However, I do have the self-awareness to realize that in the scheme of major American cities, it's nothing special, and the changes its going through (unfortunately, for the most part negative, i.e., gentrification) aren't that different from the changes happening in other cities.

The idea of being proud of being a Seattle 'local,' to me, is kind of embarrassing. At least in the idea that it's this prized thing that everyone else strives for. This isn't New York, it's not that serious. Using 'mid-American' as a short-hand for what you see as stupid and provincial, sounds to me, well, stupid and provincial. It sounds like you haven't traveled, and are too proud of that.

Please wait...

Comments are closed.

Commenting on this item is available only to members of the site. You can sign in here or create an account here.

Add a comment

By posting this comment, you are agreeing to our Terms of Use.