As hot as the deals are on Amazon.com, 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.