Amazon Workers in Chicago Strike Over Ruthless 'Megacycle' Shifts

Amazon's 10-and-a-half-hour graveyard shift, known as the 'megacycle,' has been rolled out across the United States over the past year.
April 7, 2021, 7:00pm
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Amazonians United Chicagoland

On Wednesday, workers at DIL3, an Amazon delivery station in Gage Park on the South Side of Chicago walked off the graveyard shift, chanting "stop megacycle!" 

"Megacycle" is Amazon's 10-and-a-half-hour graveyard shift, that runs from roughly 1:20am to 11:50am, and has been rolled out across the United States over the past year, upending the lives of thousands of Amazon employees, by forcing them to choose between quitting their jobs or working in the middle of the night. 

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For single parents, those who care for elderly family members, or workers with health issues who were used to four-to-eight hour shifts, the new megacycle schedule has been untenable. Amazon workers and drivers in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, and South Carolina, have also been transitioned to the megacycle shift.

Christian Zamarrón, an organizer with Amazonians United Chicagoland and Amazon worker at a nearby Chicago-area facility who also works the megacycle shift, said that managers had to pick up the work of warehouse workers during Wednesday's walkout. "The last worker who walked out said only five or six workers were left," Zamarrón said. "They had a bunch of managers, HR people, safety ambassadors doing their work. All the people who normally don’t have to do the work had to."

Workers at DIL3, the Chicago delivery station, who participated in the strike say they are facing constant understaffing and overworking on the megacycle shift. 

"My coworkers have been pleading with management to maintain a reasonable workload," said Ted Miin, an Amazon warehouse worker at DIL3 who participated in Wednesday's strike, and an organizer with Amazonians United Chicagoland. "About 20 or 30 of us walked out." 

"We respect our employees’ right to voice their concerns and peacefully protest without fear of retaliation, intimidation or harassment, and are aware a few employees took time to express concerns," Nikki Wheeler, an Amazon spokesperson told Motherboard. 

"We are making changes to our schedules to create more full-time shifts, which include competitive medical, prescription drug, dental and vision coverage, in addition to paid time off and parental leave," she continued. "These full-time schedules are commonly used across our operations network and as we transition sites to them, associates have a number of choices that best supports their needs."

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At Wednesday's protest, which drew a crowd of supporters, organizers took turns speaking on a megaphone and passed out Puerto Rican food and leaflets with a list of their demands and a link to an online petition

"Stand with Chicagoland Amazon workers. Amazon workers here in Chicago and around the country are being moved to an inhumane 'Megacycle' (1am-12pm) shift," it read. Their demands include schedule accommodations for workers who cannot work at night, $2 per hour additional megacycle shift pay, free Lyft rides to and from work (which are offered at Amazon's delivery station in New York City), and respect for workers' 20-minute paid breaks.

"The primary demand is schedule accommodations because it's a complete disruption of our lives for those you can't work at night, especially if they're mothers or taking care of elderly," said Zamarrón continued. "Amazon could make accommodations to peoples' schedules who need it. They just don't want to."

Transportation is also a major issue. The DIL3 warehouse is several blocks away from the nearest bus stop, which in Chicago runs on reduced hours at night, meaning some workers travel for several hours across the city to make their 1:20am shift. "Some folks travel up to three hours across the city. There are a lot of shootings in the neighborhood, Gage Park so workers form little groups to walk for safety," said Zamarrón. 

In January, workers at a nearby facility, who organized under the name Amazonians United DCH1, received a notice that their warehouse, DCH1, would be shut down, and that they had two weeks to pick up a 'megacycle' shift at another facility or lose their jobs. 

Many of those workers have transferred to DIL3, where Wednesday's walkout took place. Meanwhile, Amazonians United DCH1 has renamed itself as Amazonians United Chicagoland, and has expanded to organize Chicago-area Amazon workers.

Last month the Intercept reported that the National Labor Relations Board found that Amazon illegally retaliated against these workers during a series of safety walkouts for COVID-19 protections led by the group, which now goes by Amazonians United Chicagoland, in March 2020.