WA: Amazon Responds to Allegations of Poor Working Conditions

Liz Carey

Seattle, WA (WorkersCompensation.com) – After a month of stories alleging the company provided workers with poor working conditions and low pay, Amazon is delivering its own message.

In a rare public response, Amazon published a blog post on Wednesday touting its pay and benefits packages, as well as its working conditions in its warehouses.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) has alleged the company fails to pay its workers fairly, and has said that he will introduce legislation on Sept. 5 that would tax companies an amount equal to what their employees receive from government benefits like SNAP and other government programs.

“Senator Sanders continues to make inaccurate and misleading accusation against Amazon,” the post read. “Senator Sanders’ references to SNAP, which hasn’t been called ‘food stamps’ for several years, are also misleading because they include people who only worked for Amazon for a short period of time and/or chose to work part-time — both of these groups would almost certainly qualify for SNAP.”

According to a story by the New Food Economy, thousands of Amazon employees rely on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) to survive. In Arizona, an estimated 1 in 3 Amazon employees receives SNAP, while in Pennsylvania and Ohio 1 in 10 receive the government program once known as food stamps. The April record was based on public records, the publication said.

A receptionist at Amazon referred questions to the company’s blog post.

“In addition to highly competitive wages and a climate controlled, safe workplace, Amazon provides employees with a comprehensive benefit package including health insurance, disability insurance, retirement savings plans and company stock,” the company said in its post.

In early August, Vickie Shannon Allen, a 49-year-old former Amazon worker, told Fortune Magazine she was living in the parking lot of Amazon. Allen alleged that she was injured while working at the company’s Haslet, TX warehouse, and that while she tried to continue to work, she was not able to keep up with the company’s production requirements.

Allen alleged Amazon provided her with medical attention — a heating pad — but that she was still unable to work. Every day she was not able to keep up, she said, she was sent home without pay. After nine months, she said, she was evicted from her home and lived, instead, in her car.

According to Fortune, an Amazon spokesperson said safety was its “number one priority.” However, in 2018 Amazon was added to the “Employers Who Put Workers and Communities at Risk” list, compiled by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health.

In a statement to Fortune, an Amazon spokesperson said, “We don’t recognize these allegations as an accurate portrayal of working at Amazon. We are proud of our safety record and thousands of Amazonians work hard every day innovating ways to make it even better.”

“Amazon has created over 130,000 jobs in the last year alone and now employs over 560,000 people around the world. Ensuring the safety of these associates is our number one priority. We encourage anyone to come see for themselves by taking a tour at one of our fulfillment centers.”

In fact, Amazon said it has repeatedly requested that Sen. Sanders visit its facilities, but that the former presidential candidate had not yet toured a warehouse.

A spokesman in Sen. Sanders Congressional offices referred questions to a statement on Sander’s Senate website.

According to the statement, Sanders said he had tried to visit an Amazon facility in Wisconsin, but was told Amazon could not accommodate him. He said he is working with Amazon to tour a facility in Chester, VA in September, where he said he had heard from workers about unsafe working conditions, and that at least one person had allegedly died at the warehouse.

“It’s not only low wages that are of concern with regard to Amazon,” he said. “There are deeply disturbing stories about working conditions at fulfillment centers run by Amazon and its contractors. Amazon’s warehouses are on the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s list of most dangerous places to work in the United States. According to the NCOSH, seven Amazon workers have died on or near the job since 2013, including three workers within five weeks at three separate locations last year. I will be asking the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to investigate unsafe working conditions at Amazon fulfillment centers.”

Sanders had previously put out a request to current and former Amazon employees to share their experiences at the company with him.

In return, Amazon has asked its employees to communicate with Sanders.

“You may already be aware, Senator Sanders is asking folks in the FC (fulfillment centers) to share with him their experience of working at Amazon,” Dave Clark, head of Global Operations said to his operational leadership staff in an email. “I encourage you and your teams to let him know what you think. He only asks if you are on food stamps, but I hope he would be interested in hearing that you’re not as well. Please feel free to tell him your truth, and encourage all employees in your buildings to do the same — during stand-ups, in the halls, etc.”

After the email, a group of Amazon workers began to call themselves “FC Ambassadors” on Twitter began to share positive comments about their working conditions, pay and benefits at Amazon.

According to follow up reports by Quartz and the Guardian, FC Ambassadors were given $50 gift cards by the e-commerce giant for responding to questions and criticisms on social media.

 

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