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Credit: Erica Pandey/Axios

During the pandemic, Amazon's tech-infused network of warehouses and planes and trucks worked pretty much flawlessly. But its system of managing workers broke down, a nine-month New York Times investigation found.

Why it matters: The convenience of Amazon comes with a cost — the company churns through human workers as rapidly as it churns through customer orders.

By the numbers:

  • Amazon made the equivalent of three years worth of profits in 2020 and hired around 350,000 new warehouse and delivery workers — including servers, actors, and teachers who had lost their jobs — to keep up with pandemic demand.
  • But turnover was very high, at around 150% a year. To put that in context, it means replacing the entire hourly workforce in the equivalent of every eight months, the Times notes.

What's happening: Amazon evaluates workers like machines, with automated systems that track productivity, benefits, overtime assignments, firings and more.

  • But those systems often broke down when Amazon workers — just like everyone else — dealt with sickness, child care issues or other extenuating circumstances.

Alberto Castillo, a worker at Amazon's Staten Island fulfillment center, was one of the first to test positive for COVID-19 and fell very ill. The company provides robust benefits for fulfillment workers, but the disability payments stopped without warning and Castillo's wife had difficulty getting in touch with someone who could fix the issue.

Dan Cavagnaro, another employee at the same warehouse, was mistakenly fired by a machine while trying to return from leave in July. He had trouble reaching anyone who could help, he told the Times.

What's next: Amazon's HR systems haven't kept up with its explosive growth, former company executives told the Times, and workers are burnt out and suffering as a result.

  • In his most recent shareholder letter, founder Jeff Bezos even acknowledged that there's work to be done. "We need a better vision for how we create value for employees — a vision for their success," he wrote.

Go deeper: The full Times story is worthy of your time.

Go deeper

Job market optimism among Americans hits 21-year high

Data: The Conference Board; Chart: Axios Visuals

American workers are increasingly optimistic about their options.

Why it matters: Employers are scrambling to find workers as demand for goods and services has been booming.

Updated Jul 28, 2021 - Technology

Video game developers at Activision Blizzard say they'll walk out Wednesday

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Employees at Activision Blizzard will hold a walkout Wednesday in protest of widespread harassment allegations across the company, a spokesperson on behalf of the group told Axios.

The latest: The company has extended paid time off to all employees planning to attend the walkout, sending a "strong signal they intend to work with us," the source said late Tuesday.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
11 hours ago - Economy & Business

Giant earnings growth for the world's largest companies

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Never in the history of capitalism have the world's biggest companies grown as fast as the tech giants in recent years.

Why it matters: A series of stunning earnings reports this week — with another one likely to arrive Thursday afternoon, from Amazon — has underscored the astonishing growth among a group of companies that were already some of the most profitable of all time.