Amazon Organizer Store Workers have been shaking up the e-commerce giant, winning union elections and organizing outings to agitate for better working conditions. Now a worker is trying out a new strategy. Today, Daniel Olayiwola will become the first warehouse worker in the company’s history to present his own resolution at Amazon’s annual shareholders’ meeting.
Earlier this year, Olayiwola bought shares in Amazon, giving him the right to file a resolution, which he drafted with the United for Respect workers’ advocacy organization. A picker who has been working in Florida and Texas warehouses since 2017, Olayiwola is provocatively calling for an end to surveillance and productivity quotas for all Amazon warehouse and delivery workers, including drivers and other external contractors. His motion specifically calls for Amazon’s political controversy over “Leisure Time” (EVERYTHING), which penalizes workers who accumulate a certain number of minutes without scanning a product, including breaks in the bathroom. It also calls for an end to the rate system, the number of products that employees are expected to scan per hour. Workers who accumulate too much EVERYTHING or do not reach their rate are at risk of termination.
Olayiwola argues that this system prioritizes productivity over safety, leading workers to exhaustion and injury. The data, he argues, supports it. An April report from the Center for Strategic Organization, a coalition of unions, found that serious injuries to Amazon were more than double those of non-Amazon stores last year. The company acknowledges that its injury rate increased from 2020 to 2021 as it formed an influx of new hires, but says its recordable injury rate decreased by more than 13 percent from 2019 to 2021.
The proposal is one of more than a dozen on file this year on environmental and social issues such as working conditions, diversity, equity, inclusion and the abuse of technologies such as facial recognition. . (They all face high odds; the Amazon board has advised not to vote on all environmental and social proposals for which it issued a recommendation).
WIRED spoke with Olayiwola about his tenure at Amazon, his background as an Army doctor and why, winning or losing, he believes it is important to put workers’ problems before shareholders. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Your proposal addresses the working conditions of Amazon’s warehouse and distribution network workers, including “pickers” like you. What does it mean to be a picker on Amazon?
A selector selects items for packaging and delivery. You are at your station for 10 hours, usually two and a half to three hours at a time, picking up items at a rate of not less than 300 to 350 per hour. If you go down from there, they’ll send you a message or come and see you and say, “Hey, why is the selection slow? You have to speed it up for the second half of the day.”
My shift starts at 7:30 in the morning and I have to prepare two lunches so I don’t leave the building for a break. [Ed note: Olayiwola gets one 30-minute break and two 15-minute breaks.]