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Letter to Amazon regarding COVID hazard pay (ΒΆ)


Dear Amazon,

On May 31, 2020, the $2/hour COVID-19 hazard pay bonus came to an end, despite the fact that the coronavirus hazard itself has not, and the hazard protocols are still in place. We are still wearing masks and maintaining social distancing and disinfecting our workstations, and it seems we'll continue to do so for the foreseeable future. We have made significant changes to our warehouse workflow in order to stay efficient under the more challenging work environment and now we are seeing the compensation drop back. Infections and deaths by COVID-19 continue to ripple through the world, and now we're reaching the point where the nation is dreading the impending second wave. The situation is far from over.

In your Q1 2020 Earnings Release, Jeff Bezos said that Amazon expects to spend its Q2 earnings on COVID-related measures, one of which is increased pay for hourly workers. And although I recognize that the $2 bonus was indeed extended from its original deadline of April 30 to May 16 to May 31, I want to point out that this Q1 report was released on April 30, at which point the bonus deadline was May 16. So here, one of the richest companies in the world is saying that Q2 efforts will include higher pay for hourly workers, but at the time of this statement it was only intended to last for another sixteen days.

On May 13, 2020, Vox's Recode column published an article containing a quote from operations president Dave Clark regarding the final extension. He said, "This appreciation and pay incentive enabled us to deliver essential items to communities during these unprecedented times. We are grateful to associates supporting customers during a time of increased demand". At my worksite, too, there are big signs on the walls proclaiming Amazon's appreciation for their workers' efforts during this pandemic. I, for one, would appreciate if Amazon put their money where their mouth is.

To the best of my knowledge, Amazon has not used the term "hazard pay" once throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, you refer to it as appreciation pay or an incentive. Not only does this wording remind me of a dangling carrot, or bait on a fish hook to sucker people back into working, but it makes me think you have deliberately avoided the term hazard pay so that you can terminate it without facing the fact that the hazard is still very much present. Your terminology gives you a shortcut to defusing exactly the argument I'm proposing, which is that the continuation of hazard protocols should correspond with the continuation of hazard pay. 'Ah, but it was never hazard pay in the first place'.

I live in California, where the statewide minimum wage is currently in the process of rising to $15/hour by 2022. The deadline is there to give companies a chance to get their finances in order, but the $15/hour rate is what California believes the minimum wage should be now. I already perceive $15/hour as a baseline wage and judge all other rates by it. I am disappointed to see Amazon decrease their pay back to what should be considered a minimum wage especially given the circumstances. The effort we are putting in is by no means minimum. Let's compromise: bring back $17/hour as the base pay, but leave overtime as time and a half instead of double if that's what's breaking the bank.

Thank you for the time you have taken to read this letter.

Ethan Dalool

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