Employees do not work at Amazon to unconditionally support the company, any more than vice-versa. Workers have taken a hit over the last ten, twenty, thirty years. At one point, a full-time job with a large, successful company was the recipe for a comfortable living (if not the American dream). It is not so at Amazon. The respect and dignity the employee receives for her role in getting the customer her order is in question. Any group of citizens can either accept this phenomenon as the order of the 21st century, or it can choose to disagree, and to reject the idea that this instability is the inevitable condition of working at Amazon.
By paying its workers a living wage, Amazon would be better positioned to elicit the kind of efficiency and dedication that it demands. It will value its employees, rather than following the current strategy of squeezing them, using them up, and replacing them.
My suggestion for this living wage is sixteen to seventeen dollars per hour. I encourage the company to err on the high side. This living wage would ease much of the burden currently faced by SDF8 employees and would indicate the company acts on the value of the employee commensurate with company rhetoric. Some SDF8 employees feel this figure undervalues them and falls short of comparable wages for comparable work environments. I will defer to the majority. For now, I am advocating sixteen to seventeen dollars per hour as the starting wage at Amazon SDF8 arrived at through labor contract negotiations. Without a labor contract, Amazon is free to increase wages and later lower them. Amazon SDF8 has, indeed, lowered the Tier One topped-out wage in the past.
It is understandable that the company does not want dead weight. It wants to remain fluid, dynamic, and efficient at every level. Pay for this! Be honest about these conditions right up front with workers. Demand the highest standards, but compensate for these demands fairly, not deceitfully.
Amazon doesn’t want a union. This is why I believe the company should raise wages, strengthen and streamline its workforce, and continue to move into the millennium without cumbersome, outdated workforce relations problems.
The sixteen to seventeen dollars per hour figure meets several thresholds: provides equitable compensation for a low skilled job that requires an intense level of commitment from the employee to the employer; demonstrates a symbiotic relationship rather than an adversarial and exploitative relationship; provides immediate compensation for work and sacrifice provided to the company, not a distant, intangible reward, or token games and bonuses, that, more than likely, the employee will never receive. The sixteen to seventeen dollar figure takes these jobs out of the range of misery and puts them into the category of “a good job with benefits.”
There would be a higher demand for these jobs, and Amazon can begin to be the employer it projects itself to be. Turnover rates would be greatly reduced. Employees, relieved of much of the burden of low income and familial stress associated with being an Amazon associate, would be more inclined towards true customer-centricity. Management-employee relationships would improve. Amazon would begin to generate a desperately needed aura of authenticity.
One thoughtful and insightful employee whom I particularly enjoy talking to, and who, I believe, has an intuitive understanding of the Amazon worker relations dynamic, said to me, “They are exhausted, they do not receive compensation for being there all the time. They need money to work on themselves a little bit, travel a little bit, maybe go to the theater, maybe not go to the seaside every year, but maybe every other year.”