Amazon's All-American Sweatshop Conditions

Warehouse Workers Swelter in 100-Plus-Degree Heat

Amazon's All-American Sweatshop Conditions


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As hot as the deals are on, that's nothing compared to the sweltering warehouses they sometimes ship from. According to a recent report in the Allentown, Pennsylvania, Morning Call, summertime temperatures inside Amazon's Lehigh Valley warehouse can soar above 100 degrees, causing workers to suffer from cramps, light-­headedness, and other signs of heat exhaustion. Out of fear of theft, Amazon reportedly keeps the warehouse doors closed, cutting off ventilation. On the hottest days, workers have reportedly been seen passing out at the water fountain or being carried out on stretchers.

"I never felt like passing out in a warehouse and I never felt treated like a piece of crap in any other warehouse but this one," Elmer Goris, 34, told the Morning Call. "They can do that because there aren't any jobs in the area." Goris quit in July, frustrated with the heat and the demand for mandatory overtime, but the paper talked to 20 other employees who backed up his assertions.

Criticism of the Seattle-based internet retail behemoth quickly heated up online after the article's publication, but Amazon has remained cool in response. "The safety and well-being of our employees is our number one priority," insisted an Amazon spokesperson in reply to an e-mail from a concerned customer, yet went on to explain that "we haven't historically had air-conditioning in our East Coast fulfillment centers."

Really, Amazon? You don't air-condition your fulfillment centers in a region where 90-plus-degree summer days are the norm? It gets damn hot on the East Coast—and insufferably humid. Amazon founder/CEO Jeff Bezos must know this: He lived and worked for years in the region, no doubt in air-conditioned homes and offices. Hell, that kind of heat and humidity isn't even good for the merchandise, let alone the workers. But then, I guess sweatshop conditions are what one might expect from a company known for its aggressive union-busting strategies, its reliance on temporary workers, and its well-earned reputation as an international tax dodger. Amazon did not return calls seeking comment before press time.

This week, Amazon will spark intense media attention as it introduces its much-ballyhooed next-generation color Kindle, a low-priced tablet device many industry observers have billed an "iPad killer." Great. More power to them. Consumers should benefit from some real competition in the tablet market, and it's good to see at least one Seattle-area tech giant effectively challenging Apple.

But with great power comes great responsibility... such as treating your employees like human fucking beings. recommended


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#trollgaze 1
I guess the first hit piece in the Slog required a second hit piece. Maybe do a little research or just read the comments from the first hit piece. You are better than this Goldy. Ya know...actually talk to other people that have worked in warehouses and get an idea of how many have AC. #facepalm
Posted by #trollgaze on September 28, 2011 at 9:28 AM · Report this
seattlegrrrl 2
First saw this reported in a blog that picked up the Pennsylvania story, really not surprised.

I tried to go to work for Amazon's Fernley warehouse 34 miles east of Reno, Nevada in 2000 and again in 2002. Their HR did extensive credit checks on all applicants, my credit was shit thanks to student loans so I never got a job offer.

According to a friend who was a contract temp for two years out there, they had surveillance cameras in every corner of the warehouse, which was two levels underground and two stories high. If you were a minute late leaving the break room, they would keep track and deduct the minutes from your pay. If you didn't pick a certain # of orders per hour, you were laid off.

The worst thing about the Fernley warehouse were the strip searches. When I went for an in-person interview in 2000, I sat in a hallway right near the metal detectors and scanners where the employees came and went from the main warehouse. I watched them make one young guy take off his jacket, then his shirt, then his t-shirt right there in front of everybody (it was January, BTW). Then the security guard (they're also temp contractors) started fishing around in his jeans with a scan wand, presumably looking for stolen stuff. My friend said one person was let go for being an insulin diabetic (they got suspicious of the syringes even though he announced his illness when he was hired).

Ugh, so glad I don't work for them. Their treatment of employees here at the corporate offices ain't much better (i.e. the eternally rotating "temp" receptionist).
Posted by seattlegrrrl http:// on September 28, 2011 at 3:46 PM · Report this
retread from a NYTimes article. Great job, stranger!…
Posted by Write your own articles, this isn't HuffPost on October 4, 2011 at 12:14 PM · Report this
Allentown is in the Poconos region, where it's 10 to 15 degrees cooler than NYC or Philly thanks to elevation. It's NOT normally over 90 there. Average high temps in July and August are below 85. June is too cold for tourists - the summer season runs from July 4 to Labor Day.
Posted by Smelvin on October 5, 2011 at 7:23 AM · Report this
I'd like to know more about this since I have patronized Amazon and if the working conditions are truly as bad as seattlegrrrl said then I won't do it again. Not to doubt your story, but my experience on the internet is that it's always easy to find a few disgruntled people. So...anyone reading this who works at Amazon...give us more info on what it's like so we can make an informed decision.!
Posted by sfguy on October 5, 2011 at 7:36 AM · Report this
What major warehouse has AC!? Do you realize the amount of resources it would take to cool down a warehouse of that size?

We have plenty of 90+ days where I live, and none of the warehouses out here are climate-controlled. Think about the construction workers who work outside in 105+ temps- expecting people to work in hot weather isn't employee abuse. What can Amazon be reasonably expected to do, beyond providing water?

And what's with the complaints about internal security? Obviously theft by employees has been a problem, as it frequently is. Should they just let it happen and then raise prices to cover it?

I'm fairly anti-corporate, but this is just ridiculous. Yes it sucks to have to work when it's hot, but that's LIFE, and it's not Amazon's fault.

Since when is "Working in warehouses is hot in summer!" news, anyway?
Posted by SometimeLifeIsHard on October 5, 2011 at 9:32 AM · Report this

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