Amazon Warehouse Workers Who Demanded Paid Time Off Just Got It

Amazon employees who’ve been demanding paid time off since late last year just won their fight as the company scrambles to staff up in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Thousands of Amazon Logistics employees will start accruing paid time off for the first time today, according to photos of internal documents published by DCH1 Amazonians United, the Chicago-based group of Amazon employees.

“We are excited to announce that Amazon will offer paid time off (PTO) benefits to all of our regular part-time and seasonal employees in the United States,” the “manager update” dated March 20 reads. Employees can use paid time off beginning today, Monday, March 23, according to these documents.

The announcement comes after months of pressure from employees who demanded PTO after realizing they weren’t offered the same benefits Amazon describes in its employee handbook. BuzzFeed News first reported in December on this campaign, which began with a California-based employee group called Amazonians United Sacramento. Previously, Amazon said these employees didn’t accrue PTO because they were classified as part-time employees. But after more than 4,300 people signed an online petition demanding PTO, the company has reversed its policy.

Amazon said its decision to extend PTO benefits to these employees was not made in response to the actions of employee activist groups.

“This victory is a testament to the power that Amazon workers have when we organize,” said Amazonians United Sacramento in a blog post celebrating the victory. Workers in Sacramento said they began demanding PTO for Amazon delivery station employees six months ago.

Meanwhile, Amazon is racing to meet the increase in orders from thousands of customers who are on lockdown in their homes because of the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, the company announced temporary pay raises and plans to hire 100,000 new employees in order to meet a massive spike in demand.

“Amazon has implemented a broad suite of new benefits changes for employees in our operations and logistics network throughout this unprecedented pandemic event including an additional $2 per hour, double time for overtime and paid time off (PTO) benefits for regular part-time and seasonal employees,” a company spokesperson said.

While Amazon said it's been planning the policy change on PTO for some months, employees feel the timing of the announcement is related to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have now won PTO for tens of thousands of fellow Amazon workers and we celebrate our win! But we celebrate knowing that Amazon did not grant us PTO out of the kindness of their hearts,” the DCH1 Amazonians United blog post announcing the policy change reads. “Amazon gave us PTO because they want us to calm down a bit and keep the packages flowing. Coronavirus has been a blessing for Bezos: now Amazon gets a 'Coronavirus Peak,' a Prime Week AND a Peak 2020!”

The Amazon employee groups in New York, Sacramento, and Chicago have been voicing concerns lately that the company isn’t going far enough to protect them from the coronavirus at work; warehouse workers say they lack hand sanitizer, face masks, and the time to wash their hands.

At least five Amazon employees in Europe and one in New York have tested positive for the virus, and more than 1,500 workers have signed a petition demanding hazard pay, paid sick leave and childcare, and a commitment to close facilities where employees have been infected.

So far, Amazon has declined to respond to these demands.

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