‘We Need To Do A Better Job For Our Employees’


In the aftermath of a contentious campaign against a union drive at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, the company’s billionaire CEO Jeff Bezos said Thursday that the company needs to focus on better treatment for its workers.

Key Facts

In a letter to shareholders, Bezos emphasized that his goal is for Amazon to be “Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work.”

The union drive was in large part focused on unsafe working conditions, long working hours and high productivity quotas, especially during the pandemic as online shopping surged.

But in his letter, Bezos refuted reports that Amazon mistreats its employees, citing an Amazon survey showing that 94% of employees would recommend the company to a friend as a place to work. 

“If you read some of the news reports, you might think we have no care for employees…that’s not accurate,” Bezos wrote. 

He also cited ongoing efforts at Amazon to improve worker safety—like automated staffing schedules that rotate employees through different types of jobs to reduce repetitive motions that could cause injury—and touted Amazon’s implementation of a $15 per hour minimum wage in 2018.

The letter is Bezos’ last before he steps down as CEO and hands the reins to Andy Jassy later this year. 

Crucial Quote 

“Does your Chair take comfort in the outcome of the recent union vote in Bessemer? No, he doesn’t. I think we need to do a better job for our employees. While the voting results were lopsided and our direct relationship with employees is strong, it’s clear to me that we need a better vision for how we create value for employees – a vision for their success.”

Chief Critic

“Bezos’s admission today demonstrates that what we have been saying about workplace conditions is correct,” Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (which conducted the union drive in Bessemer) said in a statement Thursday. “But his admission won’t change anything, workers need a union  not just another Amazon public relations effort in damage control.”

Big Number

$196.8. That’s how much Bezos is worth, according to Forbes. That makes him the world’s richest man. 

Key Background

Earlier this month, workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, overwhelmingly voted against joining a union. In the lead-up to that vote, Amazon waged an aggressive anti-union campaign that included posters in the warehouse, a dedicated ad campaign and website and mass text messages. If the union drive had been successful, the Bessemer Amazon warehouse would have been the first in the country to unionize. The effort was seen as a watershed moment for other warehouses and big box retailers.

Further Reading

Amazon Secures Enough Votes To Defeat Union Drive (Forbes)

Amazon’s Ugly Alabama Union Fight Could Be The Struggle That Alters The Great Disruptor Forever (Forbes)

Jeff Bezos To Step Down As Amazon CEO (Forbes)

What You Need To Know About Andy Jassy, Amazon’s New CEO (Forbes)

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