Amazon Accused Of Sweatshop Conditions, Terrible Work Environment

Amazon is one of the major corporate success stories of the dot-com era and has played a significant part in driving the consumption of digital content. If certain allegations are true, it's also guilty of treating its workers quite poorly.

Multiple warehouse employees working in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, have complained of soaring temperatures, mandatory overtime, and a deaf ear on the part of the corporation.

Local paper The Morning Call conducted its own investigation, interviewing 20 current and former employees of the distributor over the past two months. Workers were required to provide proof of employment via pay stubs or tax forms. The paper writes:
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.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.
Temporary employees were hired with the hope of being  brought on full-time, but very few people appear to have transitioned to full-time jobs with Amazon in this way. Instead, the temps reported being pushed harder than other groups, with a significant number of people leaving the jobs due to injury or exhaustion. High turnover isn't an issue--Amazon only pays $11-$12/hour, but that's enough to entice workers in the heart of the Rust Belt. Amazon is scarcely the first company to exploit temporary labor as a means of keeping costs down, but the current economic conditions mean people are willing to put up with more if it means a steady paycheck--even if it only lasts a few months.

"They can get away with it because most workers will take whatever they can get with jobs few and far between," said Catherine Ruckelshaus, legal co-director of the National Employment Law Project, told The Morning Call. "The temp worker is less likely to complain about it and less likely to push for their labor rights because they feel like they don't have much pull or sway with the worksite employer."