Khadra Ibrahin, a 28-year-old single mother of two and Somali immigrant living in Minneapolis, has been working at Amazon’s Shakopee fulfillment center for two years.
As a practicing Muslim, Ibrahin tries to pray five times a day. But because Amazon has the warehouse associates working on a strict hourly packing quota, she says she cannot take a prayer break. Associates are pressured to “make rate,” with the rate number increasing and decreasing depending on the season’s demand. The warehouse’s current packing rate is 240 boxes an hour, Ibrahin says, but it’s gone as high as 400. Associates are penalized if they fall behind this rate; they can get a write-up from a manager if they are too slow, which can lead to them being terminated.
Ibrahin usually chooses to pray during her timed breaks. “Breaks make our rate slow down, and then we’d be at risk of getting fired, and so most of the time we choose prayer over bathroom, and have learned to balance our bodily needs,” she told me in a recent phone interview.