Amazon.com Inc. — summoning its inner Oprah — will offer cash prizes of as much as $500,000 as well as cars and vacation packages to frontline employees who can prove they have been vaccinated against Covid-19.
Unwilling so far to mandate vaccinations for its 1.3-million-strong workforce, the world’s largest online retailer is hoping a corporate lottery — called Max Your Vax — will persuade holdouts to get the jab. The announcement, a copy of which was seen Friday by Bloomberg, came the same day that Amazon said that starting Aug. 9 workers would have to wear masks in its logistics facilities, regardless of vaccination status — a reflection of the severity of the spreading delta variant of the coronavirus. Vaccinated workers had been able to work at Amazon mask-free since late May.
Amazon had previously offered frontline workers as much as $80 if they were inoculated against the virus. The company is desperate for workers to keep up with elevated demand from online shoppers and staff dozens of new facilities coming online. Some frontline Amazonians and their managers said the company is concerned mandates would send vaccine skeptics in their ranks in search of other jobs.
Amazon’s contest will offer a total of 18 prizes, which the company values at almost $2 million: two $500,000 cash awards, six $100,000 awards, five new vehicles and five vacation packages.
“We strongly believe that the best way to protect our front-line employees and communities from Covid-19 is through vaccinations,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in an email. “And we are proud to have hosted more than 1,100 on-site vaccination events to help make getting a vaccination as easy as possible for our employees and their household members.”
Amazon shares fell 0.9% on Friday to $3,344.94. Shares have gained more than 80% since the start of last year as Covid-19 lockdowns boosted online shopping.
The company is not the first to hand out prizes to win over vaccine skeptics. Cash lotteries popped up in several U.S. states during the initial rollout, Hong Kong offered gold bars and a diamond Rolex, and a Russian company raffled off a snowmobile.
Amazon’s contest is open to its frontline workers. That’s mostly people who work in warehouses and other logistics facilities, but also hourly workers at Whole Foods Market and Amazon Fresh grocery stores and in Amazon Web Services data centers.