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Amazon.com, Give Your Employees Good Working Conditions Or We'll Go Elsewhere

Karen Salasky at the Amazon warehouse near Allentown. I'm an Amazon junkie and a longtime Prime member. So yesterday's lengthy expose by the Allentown Morning Call really rocked my world. Gawker sums it up: Amazon.com and the managers it

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Karen Salasky at the Amazon warehouse near Allentown.

I'm an Amazon junkie and a longtime Prime member. So yesterday's lengthy expose by the Allentown Morning Call really rocked my world. Gawker sums it up:

Amazon.com and the managers it hired have come up with all sorts of ridiculous excuses for running a sweatshop that even hardened longtime warehouse workers described as the worst job they'd ever had:

  • Medical breakdowns in our warehouse had nothing to do with our warehouse:Amazon and its contracted managers routinely shifted blame to other people. In a report to OSHA about a single particularly bad day in June, Amazon site safety manager Allen Forney said people were rushed from the warehouse to the hospital with... personal problems: "Fifteen out of 1,600 employees experienced heat-related symptoms. Six of these employees were treated at a local hospital ER for non-work related medical conditions triggered by the heat."

    But it turns out workers were, go figure, pressured into calling work problems personal problems. "One temporary worker" with hypertension, the Morning Call wrote, "said her vision got blurry, she had trouble standing and couldn't concentrate one shift when heat in some parts of the warehouse exceeded 110 degrees. She went to a nurse station in the warehouse because she was feeling dizzy. Within minutes of her arrival at the nurse station, an ISS manager asked her to sign a paper saying her symptoms were not related to work, she said... 'I think it was work-related, but I just signed the paper," said the wemployee... 'I knew if I left through the nurse's station I'd get half a [demerit] point. If you get six points within three months you get fired.'"

  • Whoops, your job doesn't exist any more: "Sharon Faust said she took a temporary job with[the warehouse temp agency] ISS, hoping it would lead to a permanent position with Amazon. Then in June, the 57-year-old Breinigsville resident was diagnosed with breast cancer. She notified ISS that she needed surgery. They told her she would need a note from her doctor saying when she could return. Faust had surgery July 20 and reported to the Amazon warehouse with a doctor's note saying she could return to work Aug. 17. When she arrived to deliver the note within a week of her surgery, she found out the doctor's note wasn't necessary. 'They said my assignment with them is terminated. I was just flabbergasted,' Faust said."
  • But we give them delicious cold treats: In a July call to OSHA, Amazon's Forney disclosed that the warehouse was ranging from 108-112 degrees but noted "Amazon initiated voluntary time off, allowing employees to go home if they wished and ice cream was available." A warehouse security guard later complained to OSHA that he'd seen two pregnant women at the warehouse taken to nurses due to the heat. Amazon refused to open the garage doors, he said, but "they do have ice pops going around and water everywhere." Delicious ice pops solve everything, really.
  • Not our problem: By shifting management of the warehouse to its temp agency, "Amazon limits its liability for workers' compensation and unemployment insurance." That sounds cheap enough to make this warehouse misery a mere cost of doing business.
  • Bandannas for everyone! Amazon never did open those big doors, and the fans it installed after OSHA started poking around were compared by one worker to "working in a convection oven." But there are consolation prizes: "Amazon purchased 2,000 cooling bandannas, which were given to every employee, and those in the dock/trailer yard received cooling vests, Forney said."
  • You're not sick, you're foulmouthed: One 44 year old former waitress worked 11 hour days during the holiday rush, but found her rates dropping in the summer hear. One day her fingers tingled and her body felt numb. "She was taken by wheelchair to an air-conditioned room, where paramedics examined her while managers asked questions and took notes. 'I was really upset and I said, "All you people care about is the rates, not the well-being of the people,"' she said...Supervisors told Salasky to go home and rest. She reported to an ISS office the next day to drop off medical paperwork, and she was asked to sign papers acknowledging she got irate and used a curse word on the day she suffered from the heat. She refused to sign the papers because she said she didn't curse. A few days later, she called ISS and found out her assignment had been terminated."
  • We're doing everything we can (except not really): One former Amazon employee, who had worked himself out of the temp agency and into a permanent position in the warehouse, explained to the Morning Call that other warehouses where he worked woud routinely open loading dock doors to help circulate air when it got hot. He was told by managers that Amazon did not do this because it was worried about theft. And yet Amazon's Michele Glisson forwarded a statement to the newspaper claiming ""The safety and welfare of our employees is our No. 1 priority at Amazon.... We go to great lengths to ensure a safe work environment, with activities that include free water, snacks, extra fans and cooled air during the summer." And yet somehow the temperatures in this worker's paradise climbed to 114 degrees. Somehow we don't think that's ever happened in the den ofdissembling and greed that is Amazon's Seattle headquarters.

I already sent them a letter saying I was more than happy to pay extra if it meant their workers would have good jobs with decent working conditions. I urge you to do the same.

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