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Amazon Exposed?

A Sign in Front of Amazon's Allentown, PA Area Fulfillment Center

Just read an interesting (though long) piece from the Allentown, PA Morning Call. (HT: John Fea) The piece investigates the working conditions at the Amazon distribution center near Allentown. Working conditions are apparently harsh, particularly over the summer. If all of the claims made by former employees and temps are true, Amazon management must have some ethical issues, it seems to me. Here is a taste:

Over the past two months, The Morning Call interviewed 20 current and former warehouse workers who showed pay stubs, tax forms or other proof of employment. They offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it’s like to work in the Amazon warehouse, where temperatures soar on hot summer days, production rates are difficult to achieve and the permanent jobs sought by many temporary workers hired by an outside agency are tough to get.

Only one of the employees interviewed described it as a good place to work.

Workers said they were forced to endure brutal heat inside the sprawling warehouse and were pushed to work at a pace many could not sustain. Employees were frequently reprimanded regarding their productivity and threatened with termination, workers said. The consequences of not meeting work expectations were regularly on display, as employees lost their jobs and got escorted out of the warehouse. Such sights encouraged some workers to conceal pain and push through injury lest they get fired as well, workers said.

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.

I spent five years living about half an hour or so north of Allentown from Kindergarten through 4th grade. I’m pretty sure I know right about where this factory is. I don’t know that I know anyone who has worked there, but I know the people of the area, and they tend to be blue-collar, hard workers. I hope that these complaints are just a few people upset about their termination and exaggerating the conditions. I fear that they are not.

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