Back office employees at a different location, in Costa Rica, described the partial collapse of the company’s leave systems early in the pandemic, leading to problems like halted benefits for Mr. Castillo.
Data obtained through public records showed that Amazon’s overall work force was largely Black and Latino, but internal documents revealed that Black workers at JFK8 were disproportionately fired.
After Ms. Santos, the worker fired for T.O.T., applied for unemployment, Amazon contested her benefits. In an obscure New York administrative court, the company filed internal policy memos that provided a rare inside glimpse of the T.O.T. system.
After almost 200 interviews, a picture emerged of a company that “seemed far more precise with packages than people,” Ms. Kantor said. Amazon had tried to grow its business quickly by creating a giant semi-automated machine for hiring and managing — but that system often stumbled.
Ms. Weise was able to confirm that while the company boasted of job creation, turnover at the warehouses was roughly 150 percent a year — a figure never reported before — meaning Amazon had to replace the equivalent of its entire warehouse work force every eight months.
That number, and the entire project, took on deeper meaning when David Niekerk, the architect of Amazon’s warehouse human resources system, told her the turnover was more or less by design. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and chief executive, had sought to avoid an entrenched work force, fearing laziness and a “march to mediocrity.” So upward mobility and raises for warehouse workers were limited.
As Ms. Kantor wrote and Ms. Ashford continued to report, Ms. Weise led a delicate, six-week effort to confirm the voluminous information in the story with Amazon and garner its responses. By then, the company had provided some input, including a tour of JFK8 by the general manager and an interview with Ofori Agboka, head of human resources for the warehouses, who defended Amazon but acknowledged that the company had leaned too heavily on technology and self-service.