The company has been quietly transitioning warehouse workers at Amazon warehouses nationwide to a 10-hour graveyard shift, known as the "megacycle."
On January 25, hundreds of workers at an Amazon warehouse in Chicago were presented with a baffling choice: sign up for a ten-and-a-half-hour graveyard shift, or lose your job.
Management informed workers that their warehouse, known as DCH1, would be shut down, and they were being offered a shift that runs from 1:20am to 11:50am, which is known as "megacycle," at a new Chicago warehouse.
DCH1 has been the target of protests, walkouts, and petitions organized by workers that have changed Amazon's nationwide policies for its warehouses. Its closure will force workers to choose between their lives outside of Amazon and keeping their jobs in the middle of a pandemic.
"[This decision] is cruel and the antithesis of family-friendly corporate responsibility," organized workers at the facility who go by DCH1 Amazonians United, told Motherboard.
"The new schedule is unworkable particularly for many mothers, those who care for elderly relatives and others who need to be home in the morning hours," they continued. "In this COVID-19 environment, kids are home and learning virtually and a parent needs to be with them."
The ultimatum presented to workers at DCH1 reflects a broader strategy in the U.S. for Amazon. The company has been quietly transitioning warehouse workers at delivery stations nationwide to the "megacycle" shift in recent months. The megacycle shift collapses shorter shifts into one 10-hour shift that begins around 1 am and ends around lunchtime.
It's unclear where the term megacycle originated but it's used by both managers and workers to describe 10-hour graveyard shifts, workers tell Motherboard. An Amazon spokesperson told Motherboard that more than half of its last-mile delivery network has already transitioned to the new model.
Workers at DCH1 were previously offered several different shift options, including an eight-hour overnight shift that ends at 4:45 am, a five-hour morning shift, and a four-hour morning shift. Going forward, rank-and-file DCH1 workers will only have the megacycle option at a new facility, DCH1 Amazonians United told Motherboard.
Amazon's nationwide push to move its workers from shorter daytime shifts to longer shifts that begin in the middle of the night fits within the company's efforts to increase efficiency and speed up delivery speed for its customers at the cost of its workers' health and safety.