It shouldn't come as a surprise that Amazon's warehouses, especially at Christmastime, have to be a perfectly greased, gargantuan machine in order to meet the needs of its hundreds of millions of clients. We're less likely, however, to look beyond the company's impressive exterior at the individual pieces that make it run—Amazon's very human employees.
They might each walk between seven and 15 miles today… Before they can go home at the end of their eight-hour shift, or go to the canteen for their 30-minute break, they must walk through a set of airport-style security scanners to prove they are not stealing anything. They also walk past a life-sized cardboard image of a cheery blonde woman in an orange vest. "This is the best job I have ever had!" says a speech bubble near her head.
But even after enduring all that, there's still no real sense of job security.
The former shop-floor manager and another worker described a strict "three strikes and release" discipline system – "release" being a euphemism for getting sacked. In the early days, people were "released" frequently and with little warning or explanation, workers said. A very large number were laid off after the first busy Christmas period, some of whom had assumed their jobs would be permanent. Chris Martin says his job lasted less than a week after he took a day off for blisters and returned to find the night shift he was on had been abruptly cancelled.