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Amazon worker who has lived in her car for two years says 'Bezos has no idea we're homeless'

Natalie Monarrez chooses to stay in the parking lot of JFK8 warehouse in New York because of the 24-hour shifts and security make her feel safe.
UPDATED JUN 23, 2021
Image Source: Getty Images/Spencer Platt / Staff/Representative
Image Source: Getty Images/Spencer Platt / Staff/Representative

One company that the pandemic did not affect financially was Amazon. It saw almost tripling profits because of the surge in online shopping from the retail e-commerce site. But the booming business meant working conditions in Amazon warehouses going from bad to worse. While the founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos racked up more than $185 billion during the pandemic, his workers were working longer shifts and were making barely enough to get through. Many Amazon warehouse workers didn't even make enough to be able to afford a roof over their heads despite working 12-hour shifts. Natalie Monarrez is one such worker who decided to share her story.


Monarrez has been living in her car, at the infamous JFK8 warehouse parking lot in New York since 2019. Her Planet Fitness membership gives her access to the bathroom where she goes to brush her teeth and shower. She eats from the fast-food chains around the warehouse and goes to Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts to charge her phone and laptop. She also uses other retail chains with public bathrooms that stay open late. But when the pandemic hit, she had a difficult time keeping up. "When businesses shut down, it became difficult to find a bathroom," she told VICE. "I ended up having to use anti-bacterial wipes and do the best in my car."


The rent in New York is the highest in the country and a studio apartment in Staten Island is $1,588. Monarrez makes $19.30 an hour in her role as a full-time Amazon ship dock worker. This is $4 above New York City's $15-an-hour minimum wage. But it is not enough for her to afford rent after accounting for other vital expenses like 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. He needs to know that some of his own workers (without family or a second income) can't afford rent," she said. 


The 51-year-old is a single woman who does not have any family in New York City. She chooses to stay in the parking lot because the 24-hour shifts and security make her feel safe. It is not that she has not tried other living arrangements such as sharing an apartment with others. But she always hit roadblocks and after a six-month stint at a motel in New Jersey her credit card bill had accumulated thousands of dollars in debt.

"After six months of searching, I thought I can't find roommates or afford a studio and moved into my car," Monarrez explained. "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." There are other employees who travel from far away locations where there is cheaper accommodation. But Amazon does not reimburse them for travel expenses.


"After being questioned by reporters again and again about whether I can afford rent, I've decided to speak up," she said. "Jeff Bezos has no idea that his workers are homeless, especially in New York, and I'm not the only one. 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." The New York Times had earlier this year exposed the mismanagement of the pandemic at JFK8 warehouse as well as the deplorable working conditions. The workers are now organizing the first-ever union at an Amazon warehouse there.