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The Work Conditions of Amazon's Warehouses, Deliveries

Newsweek logo Newsweek 9/12/2018 Nina Godlewski

Rumors about the working conditions at Amazon warehouses and on the delivery routes have circulated for years. Time off around the holidays, adequate breaks on shift and appropriate wages are all reportedly missing from the lives of some Amazon employees.

Some workers for the company are allegedly on food stamps and receive other federal assistance, but Amazon, like other large companies, doesn’t cover the cost of that assistance, and Senator Bernie Sanders wants that to change.

Sanders introduced a bill September 5 that would tax employers, like Amazon, when their employees need federal benefits, like Medicaid and food stamps, to help cover the cost of those services. The bill is called the “Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act” or the “BEZOS” Act, just like the Amazon CEO’s last name.

The lack of a living wage, the multi-billion dollar company pays some employees as little as $11 an hour Sanders said, is just one of the working conditions workers have revealed about the company.

Workers at Whole Foods, which was recently acquired by Amazon, are moving to unionize in the face of the acquisition due to Amazon’s reputation. Fear of layoffs, job automation, benefits and fair pay rollbacks were all factors that drove the decision to try and unionize a letter from organizing employees said.

Amazon workers in the U.S. and around the world have also staged strikes on some of the biggest days for the company, like Black Friday and Amazon Prime Day.

While some employees do reap the benefits of the booming company, with health insurance, a living wage and paid sick leave, many part-timers do not. Employees have started posting their experiences working in Amazon warehouses to YouTube giving first-hand accounts of the conditions.

Below are some of the conditions employees have revealed experiencing:

Holidays:

In 2015, a part-time employee at the Stoughton, Massachusetts, Amazon warehouse told WBZ that employees weren’t given the day off for Thanksgiving. The company operates as a shipment transportation hub, so it is not required to give employees the day off under the state’s Blue Laws like retailers would be.

Other employees have reported mandatory overtime, especially around the holiday season. 

Deadlines so tight, there’s no time for bathroom breaks:

An undercover investigation in the United Kingdom revealed that warehouse employees resort to urinating in bottles and trash cans around the warehouse so that they won’t miss their strict time targets.

After that investigation published more people came forward with similar stories, some also told of their experiences with the lack of time for bathroom breaks, or even speaking to coworkers, to Business Insider. Drivers have also reportedly used their vans as improvised bathrooms, urinating and defecating in them to meet their lofty delivery goals deadlines, the New York Post reported.

Point-based systems of attendance:

Amazon has stated to publications that it no longer uses a points-based system for attendance but as of May, one person who said they worked for Amazon at the time told Business Insider that the point system was still in place.

Injuries on the job:

Many employees worldwide have reported getting injured on the job, some push through while others are taken away by ambulance. A reporter for the Mirror, Alan Selby, went undercover for five weeks and reported employees collapsing at work, suffering panic attacks, pulling muscles and more. A driver for a shipping company used by Amazon told Business Insider that when he accidentally slammed his hand in his van door, he was shamed at work and asked to finish his deliveries before seeking medical care.

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