In most cases, it’s an achievement for a company to “top a list”. The Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For. The Giving 20. America’s Most Just Companies. All great lists to top. However, one list you don’t want to top: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s “Dirty Dozen” Employers list. It’s a list that highlights companies that put workers and communities at risk due to unsafe practices… of which Amazon is a consecutive champion.
Miraculously, Amazon has endured a decade of exposes’ on the oppressive working conditions at their warehouses.
Now, Amazon faces another reputation-killing challenge from an HBO Last Week Tonight episode, culminating the cut-throat working environment at warehouses (specifically Amazon). Some of the stories they touched on were:
- The injury and illness rate in warehousing is higher than coal mining, construction, and logging industries
- Ambulances were called 600 times in three years to Amazon’s UK warehouses
- Metal-sided, non-air conditioned warehouses that surpass 100-degree temperatures
- Workers being timed at an unrealistic pace, clocking upwards of 17 miles walking the warehouse floor in a workday
- The repetitive, dehumanizing role in (half of the) warehouses with robotic shelves
- The pressure to hit targets, punishing employees who took breaks (forcing employees to forgo breaks), thus leading them to urinate in bottles
As with many of Last Week Tonight’s scathing, investigative comedy reports, it picked up a lot of steam and tarnished the reputation of the subject in the eyes of all who watched. Everyone except for Amazon executives, of course, who’ve voiced their polished opinions on Twitter saying that everything is roses at their warehouses – which of course their paid Amazon FC Ambassadors rallied behind.
Honestly, I’ve pored over neutral and negative Amazon worker testimonials trying to find a side to get behind. And I can’t.
My conclusion is that Amazon is a massive company with 75 fulfillment centers and 25 sortation centers in North America. And it’s hard to umbrella the experiences of all 120,000 full-time (plus 100,000 seasonal) warehouse workers. But if there were one way to accurately sum it all up, it comes from this investigative journalist:
Turns out that working in Amazon didn’t give me the chance to expose illegal practice, abuse of trafficked workers or reveal pay scales below the minimum wage. In fact, everything was completely by the book.
What became apparent over my time there was that, whatever the dramatisation of previous investigations, working at Amazon is just shit – but no more shit than any other mundane, badly-paid job.Michael Segalov, Vice
As a bystander who hasn’t worked at Amazon ever, it’s hard to pick a side in this. Although, I think there’s one action item we all should take.
Think Twice This Prime Day
Amazon’s Prime Day is this coming Monday, July 15th. A day so successful that Forbes believes spontaneous, monthly Prime Days could be one of Amazon’s greatest tactics to collapsing other retailers in the future.
Amazon Prime’s free two-day (soon to be one-day) shipping is a very enticing offer. I’ll admit, I’ve been an avid participant in the one-time, bottom-price deals of Prime Day.
However, I think this consumer behavior (which Amazon has so gracefully exploited) is the culprit for many of the aforementioned problems.
Consumer impatience creates corporate urgency and the corporate urgency creates the cut-throat warehouse conditions workers must endure.
Prime Day intensifies this urgency. As for the staff at Inevitable/Human, we’ve reached a split decision. If I see a good deal, then I’ll probably still buy something this Prime Day. Ryan was on the other side of the coin:
This year I’m thinking about the horrid conditions that Fulfillment Center workers are going to be exposed to on Prime Day because of the 400% increase in sales over typical daily order quantity.Ryan
Just like the Amazon workers at a Shakopee, Minnesota warehouse that plan to strike for six hours during Prime Day, I will not be participating in Prime Day. I’m not boycotting Amazon, their fantastic customer service, their relentless and strategic knack for success. After all, that would be a futile gesture.
Rather, I’m boycotting our impatience as a society. It’s a toxic quality that continues to grow in our culture and does us absolutely no good.
I respect Ryan’s decision and would even second his point that Amazon Thrives On Our Growing Impatience.
Patience is not passive. On the contrary, it is active; it is concentrated strength.Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton
You can rationalize your behavior all that you want that your three (or ten) packages are a “drop in the bucket”. But just remember that everyone is rationalizing that behavior. That’s what got the workers into this mess in the first place.
Think carefully before you participate in Prime Day. And make the decision you feel is right.