Amazon is a company worth over a trillion dollars. According to Fortune, it’s worth $1.7 trillion. I don’t need to tell you that’s a lot of money, like, a lot of money.
For example, if Jesus Christ made $1 million dollars every day from the day he was born (12/25/0000) until now (4/13/2021). He’d have 716 years to go before he had a trillion dollars, of course, not accounting for inflation, investing, etc (Thought Slime). There are only 16 countries on Earth with a GDP of over a trillion dollars. It’s the third richest American-founded company (Apple is first, Microsoft is second).
Despite, literally, being worth more than most countries on this planet, they have a massive problem with its treatment of their employees and their PR. They are innovators in making sure your packing gets delivered in two days and exploiting and abusing their workers.
In 2016, a BBC undercover reporter got a job as a delivery driver. They found that “not all the vans provided… are roadworthy.” The reporter even hired a mechanic to check the car, which the mechanic deemed “dangerous to drive.” The reporter spent seven days delivering packages. “As he was new to the job, he was given an easier route and had to deliver 100 parcels a day. Most other drivers he spoke to had between 150 – 200 parcels a day. He was told that this number could go up to 300 around Christmas.”
The drivers are subject to the ‘Domestic Drivers’ Hours Rules’. Basically, if the drivers spend more than 11 hours a day on duty, they’ll be committing an offense. This includes time spent driving, anything work-related, and breaks (bathroom, eating, etc).
The reporter said that “one driver told me on one occasion he had to go for a poo in his van, in a bag, because he was so desperate. He didn’t want to put himself far behind by going out of his way to a loo somewhere.” There were also reports of drivers falling asleep at the wheel.
In 2018, they outfitted their warehouse workers with wristbands that monitor their performance. The wristband would vibrate that would lead the worker in the right direction, in case they weren’t working optimally. The goal is to make the human employees as optimal as possible “until robots develop the dexterity to replace them altogether.”
Also, in 2018, hundreds of Amazon workers in Europe protested the horrendous working conditions in the warehouses. They were protesting the fact that people were “breaking bones, being knocked unconscious, and being taken away in ambulances..” It was reported in 2017 that ambulances were called to Amazon warehouses 600 times “in the last three years for incidents including electric shocks, exhaustion, chest pains, major trauma — and on three occasions even pregnancy-related issues.”
One pregnant woman reported being forced to “‘stand 10 hours without a chair’ and told to work hard, despite her superiors knowing she is pregnant.”
In 2019, Billy Foister, an employee at a warehouse in Etna, Ohio, collapsed onto the floor and laid there for 20 minutes before anyone noticed. A week earlier, he visited the warehouse’s clinic, complained of chest pains and a headache. He was given some beverages and sent back to work.
Billy’s brother, Edward, came out and said “How can you not see a 6-foot-3-inch man laying on the ground and not help him within 20 minutes? A couple of days before, he put the wrong product in the wrong bin and within two minutes, management saw it on camera and came down to talk to him about it.”
“According to the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, six Amazon workers died on the job between November 2018 and April 2019. At the Etna warehouse alone, 28 calls to 911 were made between January and March 2019.” In those calls, there were “five instances of suicidal concerns regarding employees and five on-the-job injuries.” About 3,700 workers are employed at the warehouse.
An employee, who worked the same shift as Foister, said that they were immediately “forced to go back to work. No time to decompress. Basically watch a man pass away and then get told to go back to work, everyone, and act like it’s fine.”
Amazon said they responded to Foister “within minutes,” but Edward blames the company for his brother’s death, “it seems Amazon values money way more than life. If they did their job right, I wouldn’t have had to bury my little brother” said Edward.
A similar incident happened earlier, in March, at the same warehouse, Joe Bowman died after going into cardiac arrest. In a 911 call, a supervisor tells another employee to ‘go back to work.'”
Amazon did not respond for comment on that incident, nor the frequency of such incidents. Amazon also denied giving medical attention to Billy Foister, but this isn’t the first time this has happened. In January of 2019, Linda Becker, the widow of Thomas Becker, filed a lawsuit, alleging that management delayed necessary medical attention after her husband when into cardiac arrest as he was working at an Illinois warehouse in 2017.
“As a company, we work hard to provide a safe, quality working environment for the 250,000 hourly employees across Amazon’s US facilities. Safety is a fundamental principle across our company and is inherent in our facility infrastructure, design, and operations” said an Amazon spokesperson.
This year, documents were revealed that Amazon, after denying it, knew about the lengths people went as to not get reprimanded, such as defecating in bags and peeing in bottles, and they did nothing.
“One document from January, marked ‘Amazon Confidential,’ details various infractions by Amazon employees, including ‘public urination’ and ‘public defecation.'”
An email was leaked, sent by an Amazon logistics area manager, about the rampant defecation in bags:
“This evening, an associate discovered human feces in an Amazon bag that was returned to station by a driver. This is the 3rd occasion in the last 2 months when bags have been returned to station with poop inside. We understand that DA’s [driver associates] may have emergencies while on-road, and especially during Covid, DAs have struggled to find bathrooms while delivering.”
“We’ve noticed an uptick recently of all kinds of unsanitary garbage being left inside bags: used masks, gloves, bottles of urine. By scanning the QR code on the bag, we can easily identify the DA who was in possession of the bag last. These behaviors are unacceptable, and will result in Tier 1 Infractions going forward. Please communicate this message to your drivers. I know if may seem obvious, or like something you shouldn’t need to coach, but please be explicit when communicating the message that they CANNOT poop, or leave bottles of urine inside bags.”
Employees say a ‘Tier 1 Infraction’ can lead you to get fired, but they take the risk anyway; as one employee stated “they give us 30 minutes of paid breaks, but you will not finish your work if you take it, no matter how fast you are.” As an Amazon employee, you risk getting fired if you use the bathroom because “you’re not doing your job” so this forces people to use other means to relieve themselves.
Originally, reports of Amazon employees skipping bathroom breaks came from a book published in 2018 called “Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain. The author, British journalist James Bloodworth, “alleged that Amazon workers at a warehouse in Staffordshire, U.K., resorted to urinating in bottles in order to meet production quotas.”
Halie Marie Brown, an ex-delivery driver, said that “the practice ‘happens because we are literally implicitly forced to do so, otherwise we will end up losing our jobs for too many ‘undelivered packages.'”
While working there Brown received an email titled “Urine bottle” and the email stated “In the morning, you must check your van thoroughly for garbage and urine bottle. If you find urine bottle (s) please report to your lead, supporting staff or me. Vans will be inspected by Amazon during debrief, if urine bottle (s) are found, you will be issue an infraction tier 1 for immediate offboarding.”
One employees said “every single day of my shift, I have to use the restroom in a bottle to finish my route on time. This is so common that you’ll often find bottles from other drivers located under seats in the vans.”
These working conditions and actions are ones you would see in a dystopian novel.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, there’s a reason why Amazon won’t let its employees use the bathroom whenever they need to. Let’s say the breaks and disruptions costs them $10 million, a fair estimate, the company would go bankrupt in… 273 years (Thought Slime).
One way to combat terrible working conditions is to unionize and form a Labor Union. For those that don’t know, a Labor Union is “an organization that acts as an intermediary between its members and the business that employ them. Labor unions give workers the power to negotiate for more favorable working conditions and other benefits through collective bargaining. Union members earn better wages and benefits than workers who aren’t union members.”
The Union protects the worker(s) from getting fired for asking for higher wages and better working conditions, or from having a disability or pregnancy, or for any other reason that they, obviously, shouldn’t be fired for. Of course, Amazon, a company that wants to suck every penny that they can, does not want this.
When Amazon employees in Bessemer, Alabama were trying to unionize, Senator Bernie Sanders decided to take a trip there in support of them. In response, Amazon executive Dave Clark tweeted that Amazon was the “the Bernie Sanders of employers” and continued with “so if you want to hear about $15 an hour and health care, Senator Sanders will be speaking downtown. But if you would like to make at least $15 an hour and have good health care, Amazon is hiring.” (Lest we forget that it was Sanders that pressured Amazon to raise its minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 in 2018)
In response to that, Rep. Mark Pocan replied, “Paying workers $15/hr doesn’t make you a progressive workplace when you union-bust & make workers urinate in water bottles.”
In an interesting strategy by Amazon, the account Amazon News “The official account for news about Amazon” replied to Rep. Pocan saying, “You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us. The truth is that we have over a million incredible employees around the world who are proud of what they do, and have great wages and health care from day one.” In a second tweet, they added, “We hope you can enact policies that get other employers to offer what we already do.” The same account has responded to several other Government officials with the same snarky, mightier-than-thou attitude.
Employees of Amazon were confused by the company’s approach on Twitter, many even filed support tickets about it. A secruity engineer said the tweets were “unnecessarily antagonistic (risking Amazon’s brand) and may be a result of unauthorized access.” However, according to one source, the ticket was “closed without action.” The tweets are still up.
Let’s ignore the fact that Amazon lied about how the “peeing in bottles” thing wasn’t true, as documents proved that they knew it was a problem.
Let’s ignore the fact that they’re actively forcing their employees to go to such lengths as to not get fired.
Let’s ignore the fact that many workers have to deal with these poor conditions because the job pays so well.
Let’s ignore the fact that Amazon is still doing nothing to fix this problem.
After all that, what’s the logical next step for Amazon?
Fix the problems plaguing their workers? Apologize for lying? Do nothing?
Over the past few weeks, accounts have been popping up on Twitter claiming to be real employees of Amazon. One such account is named “Yola at OKA4,” their bio reads “Picking customer orders & training/coaching new associates since August ’19. Mommy of 1 conspiracy theorist, and the bubbliest people person you’ll ever meet.”
One would assume these are bots and troll accounts used to discredit Amazon, but it should be noted that Twitter has started to ban people that put the naming convention the accounts use, which implies that the accounts that haven’t been banned are made by Amazon.
This is all part of a project conceived in 2018 called Veritas (truth, or reality, in latin), which was an effort to “train and dispatch select employees to the social media trenches to defend Amazon and its CEO, Jeff Bezos.” Those selected have to follow a strict guideline of what they can and cannot talk about. One such thing they cannot talk about is the right to unionize (That topic is its own separate article).
The election determining whether the Bessemer workers would join the the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union ended on March 29th. They did not win. A victory that Amazon took every chance to achieve. “For weeks, Amazon sent a barrage of anti-union messaging to its employees, posted “vote no” flyers in bathroom stalls, texted workers on a regular basis, waged a social media campaign linking back to the “Do It Without Dues” website, changed traffic lights outside the facility, held “captive audience” meetings with workers to dissuade them from voting “yes,” and spent nearly $10,000 a day on union-busting consulting firms.”
“None of Amazon’s 800,000 employees in the U.S. are currently unionized.”
So, yeah. Amazon sucks.