Poor Treatment of Amazon Workers

Poor Treatment of Amazon WorkersSuccess at what Expense?

Amazon fulfillment centers have experienced increase demand for its goods since the novel coronavirus has kept many people at home. More people have been shopping online in a bid to stock up on certain items, and to avoid the check-out line at the grocery. Amazon workers have walked off the job since the start of the pandemic to protest injustices they believe have made their job more difficult. One worker request has been paid time off for those that are feeling sick, or to temporarily close warehouses to conduct sanitization where workers have tested positive, although this is no longer as much of an issue with vaccines.[1] That was beyond what Amazon would have liked to do, however. To meet their quota, Amazon had prioritized sales, much to the dismay of the health of workers.

Upping the Ante

An investigation into Amazon’s practices, ordered by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, was opened last year after the company fired a warehouse worker who organized a small protest. The protest groups’ immediate concern was their health, urging the company “temporarily close the facility after a worker tested positive for COVID-19”.[2] This has not been the only issue, however. According to several reports, Amazon workers have complained about the enforced pace of work. Several facilities have mandated an extra 10-12-hour shift for full-time workers, or to extend their shifts.[3] Intermittent rest and recovery time have been reduced or minimized. Facilities are overcrowded to keep in pace with increased demand. A shortage of PPE such as gloves had forced employees to work with their bare hands, potentially increasing their rate of infection. [4]

Work processes have been sped up to allow for maximum input and to augment utility. Often there is not enough time to wash one’s hands while on the job.[5] Frederick Taylor’s theory of Scientific Management grossly encapsulates the phenomena in these Amazon fulfillment centers. Unfortunately, many Amazon workers have experienced burnout at a pace exceeding much of the workforce, and may continue to do so. This can contribute to physical and mental ailments, much of which may be compensable under workers’ compensation law.

Amazon’s Response

To its credit, Amazon has taken steps to increase employee pay. An Amazon delivery driver’s employer offered an extra $2 per hour if a certain number of deliveries per shift is completed. That driver said, “I have high blood pressure and asthma issues. I have three children. I’m really not willing to risk my life for two extra dollars.”[6] In addition, widespread reports of Amazon drivers peeing in bottles seems realistic.[7] It seems that is what this driver may have had to do to achieve the extra $2 per hour. Amazon has also offered unlimited unpaid time off.[8]

Amazon started offering two weeks’ worth of paid sick leave to employees who contracted COVID-19 and were placed under quarantine. They also doubled the hourly rate for overtime. Yet, workers still complained that they were being denied paid time off when they fell ill.[9] Workers should know that there is legal recourse should they contract injury due to the increased pace of work and restrictions placed on them.

 

[1] Newton, Casey. “Amazon’s Poor Treatment of Workers Is Catching up to It during the Coronavirus Crisis.” The Verge, Vox Media, LLC., 1 Apr. 2020, www.theverge.com/interface/2020/4/1/21201162/amazon-delivery-delays-coronavirus-worker-strikes.

[2] Capriel, Jonathan. “Some of Amazon’s ‘Hero’ Workers Protest over Coronavirus; Company Defers Loan Payments for Third-Party Sellers .” Bizjournals.com, American City Business Journals, 1 Apr. 2020, www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/2020/04/01/some-of-amazons-hero-workers-protest-over.html.

[3] Sherman, Natalie. “Amazon Fight with Workers: ‘You’re a Cog in the System’.” BBC News, BBC, 10 Feb. 2021, www.bbc.com/news/business-55927024.

[4] Ghaffary, Shirin. “Senators Are Demanding Answers from Amazon about How It Treats Warehouse Workers.” Vox, Vox Media, 8 Apr. 2020, www.vox.com/recode/2020/4/8/21214117/amazon-warehouse-workers-coronavirus-senator-booker-chris-smalls-senators-letter.

[5] Palmer, Annie. “’They’re Putting Us All at Risk’: What It’s like Working in Amazon’s Warehouses during the Coronavirus Outbreak.” CNBC, CNBC LLC., 26 Mar. 2020, www.cnbc.com/2020/03/26/amazon-warehouse-employees-grapple-with-coronavirus-risks.html.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Picchi, Aimee. “Amazon Apologizes for Denying That Its Drivers Pee in Bottles.” CBS News, CBS Interactive Inc., 5 Apr. 2021, www.cbsnews.com/news/amazon-drivers-peeing-in-bottles-union-vote-worker-complaints/.

[8] Palmer, Annie. “’They’re Putting Us All at Risk’: What It’s like Working in Amazon’s Warehouses during the Coronavirus Outbreak.” CNBC, CNBC LLC., 26 Mar. 2020, www.cnbc.com/2020/03/26/amazon-warehouse-employees-grapple-with-coronavirus-risks.html.

[9] Ghaffary, Shirin. “Senators Are Demanding Answers from Amazon about How It Treats Warehouse Workers.” Vox, Vox Media, 8 Apr. 2020, www.vox.com/recode/2020/4/8/21214117/amazon-warehouse-workers-coronavirus-senator-booker-chris-smalls-senators-letter.

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