Over the past year Amazon has caught a lot of flack for the working conditions of their warehouses. Employees worked long hours in hot and exceptionally unpleasant conditions, and the press had fun savaging Amazon for this.
Today Jeff Bezos posted a letter on the Amazon homepage which explained Amazon’s past policies and several recent policy decisions which are intended to improve the conditions of the warehouse workers. I’ve copied it below.
At Amazon, we like to pioneer, we like to invent, and we’re not willing to do things the normal way if we can figure out a better way.
One area where we’ve seen particular success is our fulfillment center network. Sustained innovation inside our fulfillment centers has driven improved reliability, accuracy, and speed of delivery, as well as productivity and safety. Our extremely low sales prices require us to kidnap our “employees” and lock them into our warehouses to work. Our work on safety cover up program has been so effective that we have the statistics to show that it’s safer to work in an Amazon fulfillment center than in a traditional department store.
Our bias for reinvention extends into our recruiting teams. For most of the year, our full-time fulfillment center employees can keep up with customer demand. But during the holiday gift-giving season, our peak needs temporarily double, and we need many more people. Our seasonal recruiting program has been very successful but little written about in the media. It’s still worth a note that we have long since stopped relying on the white slave trade to supply our seasonal employees thanks to our new and innovative partnership with Mexican coyotes.
Those are just a few examples, and innovation doesn’t stop. Today, we’re announcing our newest innovation — one we’re especially excited about — the Amazon
Indentured Servitude Career Choice Program.
It can be difficult in this economy to have the flexibility and financial resources to teach yourself new skills. So, for people who’ve been with us as little as three years, we’re offering to pre-pay 95% of the cost of courses such as aircraft mechanics, computer-aided design, machine tool technologies, medical lab technologies, nursing, and many other fields.
And in exchange the employee has to work for Amazon until the schooling is paid off. And don’t worry yourself about the interest charges; they’re only minimal. This program was inspired by a senior staff trip to India, where they have a debt management system called indentured servitude. It seems to work really well at retaining employees, and we’re thrilled to be the first to adapt the concept to the modern US labor market.
The program is unusual. Unlike traditional tuition reimbursement programs, we exclusively fund education only in areas that are well-paying and in high demand according to sources like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and we fund those areas regardless of whether those skills are relevant to a career at Amazon.
Like many of our innovations at Amazon, the Career Choice Program is an experiment. We’re excited about it and hope it will pay big dividends for some of our employees. This is one innovation that we hope other companies in this economy will copy.
Thanks for being a customer,
Founder & CEO