Amazon Staff Lose Hazard Pay—and Lives—as Bezos Cashes In

May 15, 2020 Media

Bargaining in a time of near-unprecedented job loss—some 36 million people have filed for unemployment amid COVID-19 lockdown—is difficult, however. That’s especially so at the notoriously union-averse Amazon, which represents a soaring share of the labor market. Even before the pandemic, some economists characterized Amazon as having a monopsony on labor, meaning it represented an outsized portion of jobs. That portion has grown in recent months; as its competitors experience mass lay-offsAmazon is hiring 100,000 new workers to handle COVID-era demand.

Amazon seemingly being one of the only options could be a problem for wages if and when the economy comes out of pandemic hibernation, according to Olivia Webb, a policy analyst at American Economic Liberties Project, a non-profit with a focus on combating monopoly power.

“Workers can theoretically choose between different businesses at which to work, so theoretically there should be competition for wages,” Webb said. “But when Amazon comes in and has a monopsony over the labor market in some areas, there’s not as much competition for the wages and workers are stuck with basically whatever Amazon will give them. That applies to both their base wage and the hazard pay. Amazon can cut that off at will because workers don’t have that much recourse to say, ‘I’m gonna go work for the mom-and-pop grocery store alternative,’ because it doesn’t exist anymore.”