Amazon is handing out branded merchandise to say thanks to warehouse workers during the coronavirus pandemic, even as it phases out policies intended to help.
Two Amazon employees told Business Insider the company has distributed "thank-you" t-shirts to its warehouse workers (or "fulfillment associates").
One worker based in Indiana shared a picture of the shirt they received, the front reads "Thanks to you" and on the back: "Together, we'll deliver."
The workers said the t-shirts were distributed last week, when they were placed in a room and workers had to go in to pick the size they wanted.
The token comes as Amazon announced it would be cutting the $2 per hour wage hike it brought in for staff in mid-March as hazard pay for coming in during the pandemic.
The workers BI spoke to aren't particularly happy about the trade-off. "With states opening up and over 21 cases at our warehouse so far and at least one death at the Indianapolis warehouse, it's a slap in the face," one said.
Another employee based in Texas said similar t-shirts had been given out at their warehouse — although they did not receive one because they do not work on the warehouse floor.
"All I can say was that it felt like they are trying to change the narrative that is reflected in the news, as it looks negatively upon the company. While I hate to sound ungrateful for anything, putting a big 'Thank you' on the shirt was a clear indication they wanted to sway our thoughts. It just didn't feel sincere," they said.
At the end of April Amazon also ended the offer of unlimited unpaid time off (UPT), a policy first brought in to help warehouse employees handle the pressures of working during the pandemic. Normally, workers are permitted 20 hours of unpaid time off per quarter.
Amazon has had to move quickly to keep up with a sudden spike in demand caused by customers stuck at home, while also introducing policies to protect its frontline workers.
It went on a huge 175,000 worker hiring spree and brought in increased cleaning and social-distancing — although multiple workers have told Business Insider in practice it's impossible to socially distance inside the warehouse and cleaning supplies are often missing.
Now the retail giant seems to have got a more steady hand on its supply chain, and it is removing its coronavirus worker policies like increased pay and unlimited UPT to match. Workers Business Insider spoke to said it was too soon to reverse the policies, as the risk of coronavirus is far from over.
One worker told Business Insider the decision was particularly galling given there has been an uptick of cases in their facility in Maryland.
"Amazon is an economic juggernaut with the world's wealthiest CEO at the helm, surely such a titan can afford to pay his employees a mere two dollars extra," they said.
Since the beginning of 2020, CEO Jeff Bezos' net worth has increased by $29 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
At least seven Amazon warehouse workers are now confirmed to have died with coronavirus across the US.
The company has also terminated some employees involved in public protest, including warehouse worker Christian Smalls whose case became a cause celèbre after a leaked memo showed a meeting of Amazon executives at which CEO Jeff Bezos was present discussed how best to handle the media fallout from his firing.
Amazon asserts it has not fired anyone for worker dissent, and that Smalls and others were terminated for violating company policies.