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'Bezos has no idea we're homeless; I'm not the only one': Amazon worker tells her story

After being hounded by reporters about her living situation, Amazon worker Natalie Monarrez opened up about experiencing homelessness while working at JFK8.

'Bezos has no idea we're homeless; I'm not the only one': Amazon worker tells her story
Image Source: Amazon Workers Strike Outside Staten Island Warehouse On May Day. NEW YORK, NY - MAY 01. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Over the past few years, but particularly during the pandemic, Amazon's exploitative working conditions have been criticized by the company's employees. This could not be more apparent than through Amazon worker Natalie Monarrez's story. The JFK8 warehouse worker, aged 51, has been homeless since 2019 and recounts her experiences of living out of her SUV, camping out in the facility's parking lot. Located in Staten Island, New York City, JFK8 is Amazon's colossal "employment machine," where employees have been victims of unfair and dangerous working conditions. The fulfillment center has most recently been criticized for its mishandling of the pandemic, VICE News reports.


"When businesses shut down, it became difficult to find a bathroom," Monarrez said of her experiences during the pandemic. "I ended up having to use anti-bacterial wipes and do the best in my car." While living out of her car is not easy, the Amazon employee has made it work for her. She stated, "The lot has lighting, security, and 24-hour shifts, so I feel safe there." For access to facilities like bathrooms, she has a membership at Planet Fitness. This is where she goes to shower and brush her teeth. In addition to this, she maintains a list of nearby fast-food chains and big-box stores with public bathrooms that stay open late, and charges her digital devices at coffee shops like Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts. Of course, these stores were closed due to city-wide lockdowns.


Typically, Monarrez's 12-hour shift at the Amazon warehouse begins at 6 am. Therefore, she wakes up early in the morning, walks past long rows of cars to the lobby, scans her badge, passes through metal detectors, and blends into a sea of workers in orange vests. She earns $19.30 an hour as a full-time Amazon ship dock worker at JFK8. Although this is more than $4 above New York City's $15-an-hour minimum wage, it is still not enough to afford a small studio apartment in Staten Island or neighboring New Jersey, especially after taking into account other expenses including her cell phone bill, health insurance, the cost of gas and groceries, the lease on her car, car insurance, and her Planet Fitness membership.


"Jeff Bezos donates to homeless shelters for tax write-offs and PR," Monarrez criticized. "[He] has no idea that his workers are homeless, especially in New York, and I'm not the only one. He needs to know that some of his own workers (without family or a second income) can't afford rent." The worker, who hails from Los Angeles, arrived in New York City in 2019 and originally lived out of an Extended Stay America motel in New Jersey for six months. This caused her to rack up thousands of dollars in credit card debt. Although she applied for apartments with roommates and studios, she hit too many roadblocks—much of the cheaper housing was strictly for students and residents over 55, for instance—so she ultimately gave up and moved into her SUV.


She shared, "After six months of searching, I thought I can't find roommates or afford a studio and moved into my car. A lot of my coworkers live with their families or in houses inherited from their parents. I don’t think we make enough money to afford rent here. We can pay for groceries and cars and gas and public transit, but we don’t make nearly enough to afford rent unless you have a spouse or family member who’s willing to share expenses." Amazon may tout its high minimum wage, but the company is yet to acknowledge how prevalent homelessness is among its employees. Monarrez affirmed, "After being questioned by reporters again and again about whether I can afford rent, I've decided to speak up. I'm hoping executives will agree to pay workers more and that they know older workers have the right to be promoted like everyone else."


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