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  • A Staten Island Amazon employee shares how “stowers” prepare for Amazon Prime Day in the warehouse.
  • Full-time employees are expected to work mandatory overtime hours and are paid time-and-a-half.
  • They like the pay, but they said working long hours is hurting their ankles.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with an Amazon warehouse worker in Staten Island. They’ve asked to remain anonymous for professional reasons, but Insider has verified their identity and employment with documentation. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Being a warehouse worker close to Prime Day is crazy. 

I’m a “stower” at an Amazon warehouse, which means I scan inventory and pack them onto specific shelves. About a week before Prime Day, we make sure that we start the shift with empty pods. Pods are the shelves that items are stacked on. “Pickers” take from these pods while we work.

There are more people working than normal because there’s mandatory and voluntary overtime. Mandatory overtime is 10 hours — equivalent to one shift — and voluntary is another six hours. I’m on a reduced time schedule, so I usually work 36 hours per week, but with mandatory and voluntary overtime, I’ll work a maximum of 52 hours for the week. 

The best part of working during this period is seeing what everyone is buying 

People are buying a lot of adult and kids costumes — Halloween stuff. 

Many people are buying clothes and toys, too. So people are starting their Christmas shopping as early as possible. GI Joes and Barbies are popular this year.

Nothing changes about break and lunch time during the Prime-Day period 

We still have two 15-minute breaks and 45 minutes for lunch. Supervisors don’t change anything. It’s the same schedule, leading up to Prime Day, just way more work and intensity. You have to know that you’re signed up for really long hours, for a lot of days. (Editor’s note: Under New York state law, nonfactory workers are entitled to a 45-minute meal break for shifts longer than six hours.)

You have more pressure because Prime Day orders are usually “reactive” — or time sensitive — orders. Orders are classified as either reactive or nonreactive, which tells us which order to prioritize. Nonreactive orders have to be mailed out, but there’s no rush.

Once I got two pallets of reactives, which I had to unload and package for shipment before the end of my shift. That meant I had to do it really fast. If you don’t, the system deactivates the item, so we can no longer process it. This stalls complete processing and the customer won’t get their stuff. If this happens, you might get written up by the supervisor. If you repeatedly get written up for poor productivity, it can result in a dismissal.

The size and weight of the items also affects how fast you work 

Productivity depends on what items are in the totes or on each pallet — if the items are little or medium-sized. Because more people are working in the warehouse during the Prime Day period, work stations can be affected, which also affects how fast you finish each pallet. 

The south side of the building is horrible — there’s double the work because of increased orders and no help with unpacking. If you work on that side, you usually don’t have a water spider. The water spider is the guy that puts your items on the pallet and opens up the boxes. The south side isn’t usually staffed with a water spider and that doesn’t change during the Prime-Day period. If you’re on the south side, you’re just going to get the boxes or the totes and you have to open the boxes and load up the stuff prior to doing your regular packaging job as a stower. 

The water spider doesn’t have time to do the south side because it’s working on the east side. So if you’re there, you’re pretty much on your own. People who are late for work during this period usually end up working on the south side and are pretty much screwed.

This week, my right ankle is swollen because I’ve been standing for long hours and lifting heavy packages, but I know I can’t take off

I basically have no sick leave during the Prime-Day period. There’s no way of getting out of it. Workers can take paid-time off, but I’m out of paid-time off

A regular daily shift involves a lot of standing, and I sometimes feel like I’m killing my ankles for more money. We now have to wear certain shoes as part of the safety protocol. Amazon provides the shoes, but the problem is they’re causing pain, and there’s no support. My doctor gave me special arches that I put inside mine, and they make them more comfortable. 

We have to wear the shoes when we go into the building. They’ll say, “Oh, do you have your safety shoes?” If you don’t have them, they’ll allow you in, but they’ll scan your badge, then tell you to get your safety shoes right away. I think they’re going to eventually start writing people up for not having them. You can get a doctor’s note and get an exemption, then come with your own shoes, but I haven’t done that yet because I’ve been too busy.

When I get really tired, I remind myself that we get paid time-and-a-half and the money is good. Unfortunately, the pain is not.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publishing.

Are you an Amazon worker with a story to tell? Email mlogan@insider.com.



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