Amazon Rebrands Its Brutal 'Megacycle' Shift to 'Single Cycle'

But the hours, quotas, and other basic facts of Amazon's grueling ten-and-a-half-hour graveyard shifts remain the same.
May 11, 2021, 2:04pm
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Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
On the Clock is Motherboard's reporting on the organized labor movement, gig work, automation, and the future of work.

Amazon has stopped calling its grueling 10-and-a-half hour graveyard warehouse shift "the megacycle," according to internal communications obtained by Motherboard. Instead, internal communications show and workers told Motherboard managers have been using a less intimidating name: "Single Cycle." 

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Over the past year, Amazon warehouse workers around the country have been forced into an ultimatum: transition to overnight shifts or lose their jobs. The overnight shifts, previously known as "Megacycle," typically begin at around 1:20am and finish at 11:50am, and have upended the lives of Amazon workers around the country with care-giving responsibilities and other daytime obligations. According to internal documents obtained by Motherboard, these graveyard shifts cater to customers, allowing Amazon Prime members to place next-day delivery orders later in the day. 

Previously, Amazon offered six and eight-hour shifts; but starting last year, Amazon began converting the majority of its last-mile warehouses nationwide to the new system, collapsing shorter shifts into a single overnight shift.

Amazon's switch in language to "Single Cycle" follows a report by Motherboard about how these overnight shifts disrupt workers' social lives and care-taking duties followed by widespread negative news coverage. The shifts have also become the target of a warehouse worker-led #StopMegacycle campaign in multiple warehouses around the United States. In April, workers walked off their shift in a strike for megacycle accommodations on the southwest side of Chicago. 

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Amazon warehouse workers and delivery drivers in California, Michigan, Washington, and Illinois confirmed their managers and the company had begun replacing the term "Megacycle" with "Single Cycle" in recent weeks. Official company communications show this change in language began after widespread backlash to megacycle shifts started in February.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

"I had a manager tell me that they are supposed to call it a 'Single Cycle' now rather than Megacycle," an Amazon warehouse worker in Sacramento told Motherboard. 

"I've seen 'Single Cycle' getting used on [company] whiteboards and stuff over the last couple weeks," an Amazon warehouse worker who helps led the #StopMegacycle campaign in the suburbs of Chicago, said.

A group called Amazonians United is organizing the #StopMegacycle campaign to demand accommodations for parents and other workers on the megacycle shift who cannot work at night. They're also demanding $2 per hour additional megacycle shift pay, free Lyft rides to and from work, and respect for workers' 20-minute paid breaks.

The graveyard shift has also impacted the lives of Amazon delivery drivers who have had to adapt to new schedules and in some cases, higher delivery quotas, on short notice. 

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According to one owner of an Amazon delivery company, Amazon's delivery companies have also been asked to start using the term "Single Cycle." "A few weeks ago, Amazon just started using 'Single Cycle' instead of 'megacycle' in all our communications," he said. 

On April 16, Amazon sent out an internal message to Amazon delivery companies titled "Transitioning to Single Cycle," accompanied by a video where Amazon delivery company owners shared their experiences about transitioning to "Single Cycle." The new shift, Amazon explains, allows for increased customer convenience. 

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"As you know we are in the process of converting a majority of the remaining Multi-Cycle sites to Single Cycle Operations," the note from Amazon said. "Single Cycle stations operate on a standard operational clock, which means dispatch times begin slightly later in the morning therefore allowing customers to place orders later in the day for next day delivery." 

Despite the rebrand to "Single Cycle," the hours, quotas, and other basic facts of Amazon's grueling graveyard shifts remain the same. Workers still lack accommodations and safe late-night transportation.