Jeff Bezos Says Amazon Needs 'Better Vision' for Employees, Defends Work -- 2nd Update
By Sebastian Herrera
Amazon.com Inc. founder and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said the
company needs a "better vision" for employees following a recent
vote among Alabama warehouse workers who rejected unionization.
"While the voting results were lopsided and our direct
relationship with employees is strong, it's clear to me that we
need a better vision for how we create value for employees -- a
vision for their success," Mr. Bezos said in a letter to
shareholders Thursday. Mr. Bezos added that he didn't take comfort
in the outcome.
More than 70% of Amazon employees in Bessemer, Ala., who cast
ballots voted not to unionize last week, giving the tech giant a
victory in its biggest battle yet against labor-organizing
Mr. Bezos, who is set to step down as CEO in the third quarter
and will remain chairman, also noted a few of Amazon's
pandemic-induced successes in the annual shareholder letter.
Spurred by record demand as lockdowns drew more people into
online shopping, Amazon posted record profits, hired 500,000
workers and paid $91 billion in employee compensation. Mr. Bezos
estimated that Amazon helped more than 200 million Prime members
save $630 in the year. Small and medium-size businesses account for
almost 60% of its sales.
That success, as well as Amazon's growth in e-commerce,
cloud-computing and other areas, has drawn scrutiny to its power
and the sway it holds over markets and industries. Last year, a
congressional committee found that Amazon had amassed "monopoly
power" over sellers on its site, bullied retail partners and
improperly used seller data to compete with rivals. Amazon said a
presumption that success can happen only through anticompetitive
behavior "is simply wrong."
Mr. Bezos, who is the world's richest person due to Amazon's
success, has written annual shareholder letters since the company
went public in 1997. His personal wealth is more than $190 billion,
according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
The letters typically highlight successes the company has seen
in the past year, sometimes with a storytelling flourish.
This year, he included a letter from a couple that bought two
shares of Amazon in 1997 for their 12-year-old son's birthday that
he is now using to help buy a house. Amazon shares were worth less
than $5 then. Now, they are worth more than $3,000.
Mr. Bezos said Amazon works hard to serve its employees and
called reports of unsafe working conditions at its hundreds of
warehouses inaccurate. He said employees are able to take breaks
when needed without affecting their performance goals. Some
employees at the company have complained about the rate at which
they have to sort or prepare packages, with some workers having to
prepare hundreds of items an hour while being closely monitored by
"We don't set unreasonable performance goals," Mr. Bezos said.
"We set achievable performance goals that take into account tenure
and actual employee performance data."
Still, Mr. Bezos said the union election in Alabama highlighted
how the company needs a better vision for how it "creates value"
for its employees.
The unionization vote in Amazon's favor came after months in
which the union sought to gain bargaining rights with the company
over work policies such as breaks and pay.
Mr. Bezos said as he steps into the role of executive chairman,
he is focused on new initiatives and innovations the company can
create moving forward. He said Amazon needs to invent solutions to
reduce the amount of injuries at Amazon warehouses.
About 40% of work-related injuries are caused by what he called
musculoskeletal disorders, he said. He highlighted one such program
in existence across North America and Europe that teaches small
groups of employees body mechanics.
Mr. Bezos said the company is developing staffing schedules that
rotate employees among jobs that use different muscle groups to
decrease repetitive motion. He said he expects Amazon to set a
standard that others follow.
Mr. Bezos promised that Amazon could become the world's best
employer and its safest place to work, in addition to being its
most consumer-centric company.
"If we can operate two businesses as different as consumer
e-commerce and AWS, and do both at the highest level, we can
certainly do the same with these two vision statements," he said.
"In fact, I'm confident they will reinforce each other."
Write to Sebastian Herrera at Sebastian.Herrera@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
April 15, 2021 11:24 ET (15:24 GMT)
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