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Dying for a Job at Amazon

MsExPat's picture

I won't buy anything from Amazon again until they air condition their warehouses, and stop working their employees like dogs.

From the superb muckraking article in the local Allentown, PA paper, The Morning Call:

During summer heat waves, Amazon arranged to have paramedics parked in ambulances outside, ready to treat any workers who dehydrated or suffered other forms of heat stress. Those who couldn't quickly cool off and return to work were sent home or taken out in stretchers and wheelchairs and transported to area hospitals. And new applicants were ready to begin work at any time.

An emergency room doctor in June called federal regulators to report an "unsafe environment" after he treated several Amazon warehouse workers for heat-related problems. The doctor's report was echoed by warehouse workers who also complained to regulators, including a security guard who reported seeing pregnant employees suffering in the heat.

In a better economy, not as many people would line up for jobs that pay $11 or $12 an hour moving inventory through a hot warehouse. But with job openings scarce, Amazon and Integrity Staffing Solutions, the temporary employment firm that is hiring workers for Amazon, have found eager applicants in the swollen ranks of the unemployed.

Note: this amazing expose was accomplished by a reporter at a small independent daily. Allentown is in the backyard of the WP, and the NYT, and Amazon, of course, is a huge company. Yet not a single big city reporter caught on to this huge story. Interesting.

Note 2: Just because a company is "cool" and Information Age doesn't mean it doesn't practice smarmy capitalism. Just ask the Shenzhen workers at Foxcomm who make your iPhone.

Note 3: The domestic-ification of exploitation. This outrageous exploitation of labor happened in the US--the Northeast!--not in Shenzhen, China.

Note 4: This is why the young students of #occupywallstreet are sleeping out there in Zucotti Park. They understand that systemic underemployment means a future of backbreaking, exploitative, Amazon-style work for them.

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twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

what kind of monster(s) would treat other people that way? And the fact that they had paramedics standing by means they knew people were going to be suffering.

I don't need anything badly enough to buy it from a company like that.

Submitted by Lex on

is that you don't have to think of them as people. They're just easily replaceable "labor." Nothing more than a number in a spreadsheet; more importantly, they're bad numbers ... the kind that detract from net profit and the kind that The Market wants eliminated.

Dickens would feel pretty at home in modern America.

Submitted by gob on

I couldn't stomach it all, quit when they got to the Jeff-Bezos-is-rich part, but look at this, a model of clear statement which they managed to get onto the first page (instead of burying it in the next-to-last paragraph as Big Media so often does):

The supply of temporary workers keeps Amazon's warehouse fully staffed without the expense of a permanent workforce that expects raises and good benefits. Using temporary employees in general also helps reduce the prospect that employees will organize a union that pushes for better treatment because the employees are in constant flux, labor experts say. And Amazon limits its liability for workers' compensation and unemployment insurance because most of the workers don't work for Amazon, they work for the temp agency.

And "Integrity Staffing Solutions"? Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

It's gotten so every time I see the word "integrity" in a business context I check the whereabouts of my wallet.

It just occurred to me -- the other beauty part of Amazon's business model (and Walmart's too): if you keep the population on the edge of poverty, they can't afford to boycott you!

cripes's picture
Submitted by cripes on

But armchair liberals wouldn't know that. Where do you think you're going to buy your lefty books and I-pads from? A nice air conditioned dot-com company? Think again.

Logistic/distribution companies routinely use temporary agencies to staff their huge shipping centers at near-minimum wages and with the threat of immediate dismissal, shall we say, inhibiting organizing.

And forget sick days, or holidays, or vacation days or health care, or 401k's. Even when I got hired by Houghton-Mifflin publishing after months as a temp, don't think of using the ten sick days in their employee manual, you'd be under a "warning" after two, and fired at three. That's how manual labor is treated in this country.

When they're injured, they're taken to "occupational health" clinics, contracted by the corporation, where the "doctor" attempts to get them to admit fault in their own injury on a tape recorder. It happened to me.

It's not unusual in factories or shipping for people to lose fingers, toes, back injuries and crushed legs or hands. I bandaged people's hands when their thumbs or fingers were cut off and walked them to the office for transport to the shitty clinic. One man still worked after losing his arm at the elbow.

Women are often treated in the most sexist manner, either abused for their "weaker sex" physical capabilities or coerced into sexual liaisons.

Warehouses, like factories, are rarely air conditioned, as this is seen as an exorbitant cost, and only the little offices of the managers are air conditioned, where they can watch the serfs toiling away in oppressive heat.

Sometimes, floor fans or water coolers are placed around the facility. Or not.

Bad as I agree this is, only coddled white collar types would be shocked by this, just as they were shocked--SHOCKED, I TELL YOU--that NYC police treated people mean at Zuccotti Park. They're lucky they weren't tased and shot.

Maybe when they are, reality will set in.

Submitted by gob on

because they're angry even though they haven't personally suffered from it?

Would it be better if they weren't angry?

Are people supposed to revolt only against the indignities they personally suffer?

cripes's picture
Submitted by cripes on

Gob:

I'm probably just angry that we can live in isolated bubbles from each other, thinking we can just shop "green" or some crap that will make the mean old amazon warehouses go away.

It's not just Amazon and they're not kidding about the "just be happy you have a job" part, because the alternative for many is homelessness, jails and death.

The enemy is far more evil and the reality far too grim.

Solidarity, bro.