This was originally posted in November 2015.
There are just two seasons inside an Amazon warehouse — peak, and the rest of the year.
Peak is the insanely busy stretch leading up to the holidays. Cyber Monday serves as the linchpin of peak. On this day alone last year, Amazon shoppers ordered 23 million items from the online retailer.
One consequence of the rise of online retail is that we no longer see any of the work required to bring us goods. We click “buy.” Then, in a few days or even hours, we come home to find the boxes on our doorstep. But the work is demanding — from the picker who picks our purchase, to the packer who packs it, to the driver who drives it to our home, often out of a personal van. And it’s never so demanding as during peak.
The video above, produced by Ibrahim Balkhy and Christine Conetta, offers a glimpse of one of those invisible workers. Jeff Lockhart Jr. was a temporary employee at Amazon’s warehouse in Chester, Virginia. He worked as a picker, walking up to 15 miles per shift as he fetched items for customer orders. He was one of the tens of thousands of seasonal employees Amazon brings on for peak. Many of them, like Lockhart, have failed to find more stable work, and hope that if they can prove themselves as temps, Amazon will hire them full time. Lockhart made it through the peak season of 2012 before suffering a sudden cardiac death in January of 2013.
The video was shot last year at an annual memorial held for Lockhart at Virginia Motorsports Park in North Dinwiddie, Virginia. To read the full story of Lockhart’s life and death, head over to HuffPost’s Highline.