When Mike Griffith, a career pilot, learned last year that his company Atlas Air signed a big contract to fly for Amazon's Prime Air program, he was ecstatic to take part in what he believed to be the future of logistics.
Twelve months later, Griffith's excitement has turned to angst. Dozens of his colleagues have fled for higher pay and better benefits elsewhere, whether cargo operations like UPS or commercial airlines like Delta.
Griffith, 52, is so concerned about his company's ability to hold up its end of the Amazon deal that he's heading to Seattle for its shareholders meeting on Tuesday. Griffith will be picketing along with about 50 other pilots from Atlas and air cargo conglomerate Air Transport Services Group (ATSG), which also has a contract with Amazon.
"Shareholders are being sold a bill of goods by vendors saying that they can bring in labor at below-market rates and make it successful," Griffith said in an interview on Friday from his home in Los Angeles. "We're seeing record attrition."
Griffith said that a report released internally showed that Atlas lost 92 pilots in the first four months of the year, double the number it lost in all of 2016.
Last week, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents pilots at Atlas and ATSG, sent a letter to Amazon's board expressing concern that "our employers, in their efforts to contain costs, will hamper Prime Air's growth and ultimately force Amazon to reconsider the strategic development of Prime Air."
Ken Hall, the union's general secretary-treasurer, said in the letter that he welcomes a meeting with Amazon executives to discuss the problem and potential solutions.