Amazon Accused Of Brutal Work Conditions ‘Workers Falling Asleep On Feet’
Amazon is one of the most prolific and growing corporations in the United States. Currently, several major cities, including Pittsburgh and Kansas City, are fighting to become the second U.S. based home for an Amazon warehouse distribution center. Such a deal could provide a local economy with thousands of new jobs and potentially change the socioeconomic foundation of a mid-sized city.
But would potential downsides outweigh the obvious upsides? An investigative report ran by the U.K.’s Mirror publication is alleging that Amazon’s work conditions are brutal and treacherous. Amazon has in the past been subjected to poor workplace conditions criticism by major news sources, but these latest revelations may well be the worst yet. Back in August of 2015, the New York Times slammed Amazon for subjecting employees to horrific work paces. In this most recent piece published in the Mirror, writer Alan Selby claims that workers are seen “falling asleep on their feet” due to harsh conditions that have them being pushed over the edge to deal with outbound packages.
It is no surprise to learn that Amazon is a company with inflated expectations. This year has shown them expanding by leaps and bounds, including an acquisition of Whole Foods Markets, where indications of Amazon’s presence can already be found inside of their stores nationwide. It only took days for Amazon to fill Whole Foods markets with Amazon Echos. And only weeks to see signs of Prime member benefits and Amazon delivery storage lockers. Amazon moves at a relentless pace, but it seems that’s potentially coming at the expense of its employees, who may be being worked to their limits and beyond.
The Mirror’s investigative report went inside of the Tilbury warehouse, Amazon’s U.K. based distribution center that’s known for constantly hiring new employees. The Mirror’s reporter went undercover to see what the true conditions of Amazon’s workplace are really like. And what he found was nothing short of shocking and sad. Selby claims that workers are fighting to keep there place in the distribution lineups versus robots. “At every turn it felt like the human staff were reduced to livestock, existing only to service the machines…” He claims he became “depressed” and mentally “switched off” by the expedited work pace.
Amazon does not have to enforce a 10-hour day, it could stretch its 40-hour week over five days and add more staff.
Extra staff may let it reduce personal targets to lessen the load. But it makes more money by treating its workers as expendable commodities.
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Selby also claims that Amazon has “timed toilet breaks” and creates an impossible to meet demand, that keeps workers spinning their proverbial hamster wheels. He also claims he saw workers “falling asleep on their feet as they struggled to keep up with seemingly impossible targets” due to relentless packaging every 30-seconds. Worse more, Selby claims that many workers have their salaries nearly cut in half due to taking costly public transit to work.
And then there is this dark excerpt.
Alone in a locked metal cage, 10 feet from my nearest colleague, a robot approaches from the shadows and thrusts a tower of shelves towards me.
I have nine seconds to grab and process an item to be sent for packing – a target of 300 items an hour, for hour after relentless hour.
As I bend to the floor then reach high above my head to fulfil a never-ending stream of orders, my body screams at me.
Welcome to Amazon’s picking floor. Here, while cameras watch my every move, a screen in front of me offers constant reminders of my “units per hour” and exactly how long each has taken.
In total, Selby spent 5-weeks being subjected to Amazon’s work conditions. He even claims that workers not living up to the expectations of the pace were fired, and those who tried to keep the pace were at times, attended to by ambulances. In both Germany and Italy, worker are striking over pay and workplace conditions. He claims that workers at his Tilbury factory were often seen sleeping beneath bridges near the distribution center so that they could make it to work on time, and for less transit costs.
If these allegations are true, what does the future of America look like with Amazon being potentially the largest producer of shipping goods in the nation? If Amazon becomes a monopoly, is the end result a society enslaved by robots and machines? It certainly has all the makings. Amazon is now set to put traditional merchants and grocery store chains completely out of business. Beyond that, they likely hire a number of those unemployed workers to work inside their system, which is now being alleged to be a robotic enslavement camp of sorts.
Should cities such as Kansas City and Pittsburgh potentially rethink their position on Amazon? It might not do all that much good, considering that Amazon’s reach goes beyond the limits of its distribution centers. More people are buying their goods on Amazon than every before. Malls are collapsing. One good thing out of all of this might well be grocery giant Kroger, who has shown stellar 3rd quarter profits, causing Kroger’s stock shares to rise. Even with Macy’s, Nordstroms and J.C. Penny’s seemingly near the end, Kroger at least offers us a ray of sunshine that hints at a future not as apocalyptic as we likely imagine.
Author: Jim Satney
PrepForThat’s Editor and lead writer for political, survival, and weather categories.