Life in the Time of Coronavirus is a new GEN series where we are interviewing people across the country who have had their lives upended or are experiencing the stress of the unknown.
This Amazon employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, is an inbound stow associate in her mid-20s working at a major California warehouse. Employee organizations in other warehouses have been negotiating for increased labor rights, with some recent successes, but her facility does not have such an organization.
If I could stay home, I would, but I need this job. We have work gloves and hand sanitizer but nothing else to protect us from the coronavirus. Everything has been touched by 1,000 hands: Hands at the manufacturer, the distributor, the docks, the trucks; hands making up the pallets. Then I pick up each item and put it on my pod, and that pod goes to other sets of hands: the pickers, the packers, the shippers. We move fast, and we sweat when we work. The warehouse has no air circulation. One sneeze particle, and it’s just caught inside. What if my whole department, my whole warehouse, gets sick?
For my role, I stand in a station, and I receive items — toys, books, clothes, household goods, even dildos, I’ll be honest — in bins. I take each item and move it to a pod with shelves beside me. When I completely fill the pod, which is self-driving, it heads over to the outbound section. The customers want their stuff fast; our days are built around that desire. Before the pandemic, I worked from 6:00 p.m. to 4:30 a.m., 10-hour days, four days a week, except for peak holiday season, when I worked overtime: five days a week, 12 hours a day. I got paid $15.55 base pay, plus 60 cents extra for working overnight, so $16.15 per hour, and around $23 for overtime. We do get benefits, including dental, vision, and health insurance, and a 401(k). In normal times, I bring home about $1,900 a month.