“We are not anti-union, but we are not neutral either. We do not believe unions are in the best interests of our customers, our shareholders and most importantly our associates. Our business model is built upon speed, innovation and customer obsession- things that are not generally not associated with unions.” This is directly quoted from a training video made by Amazon for their managers . When companies with such predatory business strategies meet opportunities (?) like ongoing Covid-19, we ought to take a closer look and raise questions about customer & employee safety, the truth behind claimed sustainable value creation and what we can do for a restructured approach from a systemic perspective.
The rise of E-commences has taken away jobs from the brick and mortar retail stores and created similar number of jobs in warehousing industries. To understand the question of sustainability for this warehousing industries focusing on employees as an auxiliary variable and on a further degree how it affects everyone during this pandemic, at first, we have to take a deep dive on the prevailing practices in this industry. While companies like amazon make false advertises (with comments turned off on youtube) to mislead everyone into believing their workplace environment is fun, safe and happy; meanwhile injury and illness rate in warehousing industry remains higher than industries like coal mining, construction and logging. The New York Time’s article on the interviews from mothers victim of miscarriages due to pregnancy discrimination directly shows that the underlying reasons for their sufferings are not accidents; rather being victim of negligence, cruelty and being denied of basic human rights . The XPO supervisors forced the workers to continue working while Ms. Neal’s dead body was lying on the floor. Ms. Neal was denied an extra break that day when she was feeling unwell.
Now let’s look at the scenes behind the curtains what companies like amazon doing to protect their employees during this pandemic and whether their predatory policies have changed or reaching up to even the customers. In March 2020, Amazon stopped shipment of non-essential items, but just a month later when the coronavirus cases are devastating the world, they have again started to accept non-essential items into their warehouses. For deep cleaning purposes many warehouses that were rented and managed by companies like Amazon were temporarily shut down when workers tested positive. But these initiatives are mostly taken after state orders. Discontent starts to rise up among employees as Amazon fails to provide minimum protective measurements. In couple of warehouses protest started and people started to walk out. And the warehouse worker who planned and led the walkout for the sake of better protection was fired. This is not an isolated case. By April, Amazon publicly terminated six workers as a method of retaliation for speaking out against the prevailing warehouse conditions citing the social distancing guidelines. And has a final nail in the coffin, the unlimited unpaid leave policy is terminated. That essentially means even if someone still have coronavirus they are still expected to show up. At least Walmart had the decency to pay second round of cash bonuses to its workers in June. Target has increased the hazard pay it was paying up to July. But the 2$ hazard pay Amazon decided to pay, they decided to terminate that as well.
As a matter of personal reflection, we have to take into account the practices of companies solely relying on warehousing and being wary of the consumed products and question ourselves about the essentiality of them. Over the years we have ignored when Amazon has faced criticisms and lawsuits for refusing pregnant workers longer bathroom breaks or fewer continuous hours on their feet and firing them. The more we look at these companies the more we realize the conveniences they offer comes with a real cost. We do not need to get to the shops to get the products, they are brought to us and somehow, they managed to make it cheaper. This has not been achieved with a clever algorithm rather siphoning the life force out of the people in the lowest level. And when these companies hit their all-time high stock prices  while considering the employees expendables we as consumers, activists and policymakers need to show solidarity to eradicate these predatory practices.
- Amazon’s Union Busting Training Video
- Tour an Amazon warehouse. Amazing technology, amazing people.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics- Injuries, Illness and Fatalities
- Miscarrying at Work: The Physical Toll of Pregnancy Discrimination – The New York Times
- Amazon allows sellers to start shipping nonessential items again.
- Amazon Closes Kentucky Warehouse After Workers Test Positive – NPR
- Amazon fires warehouse worker who led Staten Island warehouse walkout- CNN
- Fired Amazon worker says termination was retaliation for speaking out
- Amazon set to end ‘unlimited unpaid time off’ policy
- Amazon says it will END hazard pay in June for its warehouse employees who received extra $2 an hour and double overtime during the pandemic
- Amazon fired these 7 pregnant workers. Then came the lawsuits
- Amazon stock hits a new all-time high as it sees unprecedented demand