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Supply Chain News: Criticism of Working Conditions at Amazon Fulfillment Centers Continues On


Injuries Well Exceed US Average, Analysis Finds, While One Staten Island FC Worker Says Job Worst Ever

Dec. 2, 2019
SCDigest Editorial Staff

Amazon's almost pervasive presence in ecommerce and a growing number of other areas has its benefits for the company, but also some downsides, as the on-line giant has come under almost continuous scrutiny for working conditions in its huge global network of fulfillment centers.

For example, a new study from The Atlantic magazine and something called Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting finds that in 2018 there were 9.6 serious work injuries per 100 full-time workers in the 23 Amazon FCs it analyzed.

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What she called roasting temperatures in the FC on some days with no fans added to Donelly's misery.

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That 9.6 rates compares with a warehousing industry average that year of 4, accordinga just released article in The Atlantic. The article says that while a handful of centers in the study were at or below the industry average, Reveal found that some centers, such as one in Eastvale, CA, had very high injury rates dangerous, with 422 injuries recorded there last year.

Its rate of serious injuries, defined as those requiring job restrictions or days off work, was more than four times the industry average. It is not clear how Reveal was able to collect the data, though it appears it may have been given access by Amazon.

A company spokesperson said Amazon's injury rates are high because it is aggressive about recording worker injuries and cautious about allowing injured workers to return to work before they're ready.

The Atlantic in the US and the Guardian newspaper in the UK have been especially tough in reporting about working conditions at Amazon FCs in recent years.

Then over the weekend, the New York Post ran an article featuring a tale of woe from one woman who only made it for about a month working in an Amazon FC, which she says is a "cult-like" sweatshop run by robots.

46-year-old Maureen Donnelly told the Post she quit in October because the conditions inside the 855,000-square-foot FC in Staten Island were simply unbearable.

"I soon learned that only difference between an Amazon warehouse and a third-world sweatshop were the robots," Donnelly told the Post. "At Amazon, you were surrounded by bots, and they were treated better than the humans."

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The Post reports that Amazon also featured on the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health's 2019 "Dirty Dozen" list, which names the nation's most dangerous employers.

Connelly claims to have endured 12 hour shifts with limited breaks, sweltering temperatures and "mind numbing labor."

From her first day on the job, Donnelly alleges managers would regularly drum into her that Amazon is "the best place to work," saying the persistent messaging was "cult-like."

She says workers were constantly encouraged to drink water to stay hydrated – which naturally could also lead to bathroom breaks - which often caused problems with supervisors if they were taken outside the official 15 minute breaks workers get in the first or second half of their shifts, or during the 30-minute lunch break.

Donnelly added that half of her 30 minute lunch break was taken up on a long walk to and from the lunch room.

What she called roasting temperatures in the FC on some days with no fans added to Donelly's misery.

She also criticized Amazon's productivity standards, which Donnelly says were almost impossible to meet, while a computer constantly reminded her how far she was off meeting the quota.

"I wasn't disciplined because I was a newbie," Donnelly told the Post, adding that "I quit before I could find out the punishment."

The Post says it has previously confirmed that any worker receiving six warnings for failing to meet standards in a 12 month period is sent a system-generated termination notice - though supervisors are able to override them.

SCDigest's simple take: welcome to life as a warehouse worker.

What do you think about these reports on working conditions at Amazon? Something there - or just what it ii is like to work in a warehouse? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.




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