The special case of Amazon
Amazon is not a pure warehousing company as per the definition for NAICS 4931. However, no warehouse sector profile would be complete without some mention of the company, which has come to dominate the discourse on warehousing and labour, simply because of the company’s massive scale, incredible growth, market dominance, and abysmal record of worker treatment.
Amazon is a US-based multinational technology company that focuses on e-commerce, cloud computing, digital streaming, and artificial intelligence. The company has a market cap of $1.73 trillion USD, and generated $386 billion USD in revenue in 2020, up almost 38% from the year before. In 2020, Amazon saw a net income of $21.33 billion USD, an increase of 84% over the previous year.
In terms of the company’s presence in Canada, the company claims to employ 23,000 full- and part-time workers. Amazon says it has invested more than $11 billion in this country since 2010, including infrastructure and compensation to its employees.* In terms of the company’s e-commerce, and retail activities here, the company had 13 fulfillment centres, 15 delivery stations, and 2 sortation centres in Canada as of 2020.
The company’s record as a bad employer could fill a discussion paper of its own. A recent study from California explored the company’s “high churn” employment model, finding that, “Warehouse worker turnover rates rise as high as 100% when Amazon comes to town.”**
The incredibly high workload and fast pace of work took their toll on Amazon’s workforce. According to a recent investigation in the Toronto Star,
While Amazon’s injury record has received significant attention south of the border, its record in Canada is worse: last year, its injury rate was 15 per cent higher than the company’s U.S. average. In Toronto-area facilities, injury rates have more than doubled since 2016.***
* “Amazon Canada Economic Impact Report.” Amazon. (2020). (from https://chamber.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Amazon_CA_EconImpact_111620.pdf).
** Irene Tung and Deborah Berkowitz. “Amazon’s Disposable Workers: High Injury and Turnover Rates at Fulfillment Centers In California.” National Employment Law Project. (March 6, 2020). (from https://www.nelp.org/publication/amazons-disposable-workers-high-injury-turnover-rates-fulfillment-centers-california/).
*** Sara Mojtehedzadeh. “Amazon warehouse workers in Canada saw injury rates double. Then COVID hit. Inside a hidden safety crisis” Toronto Star. (December 10, 2020).