Despite Amazon’s poor working conditions being widely publicized, and despite the widespread strikes and protests that took place this past Prime Day, Amazon is still raking in money. It recently became the second company (in addition to Apple) to reach $1 trillion. But in an effort to combat this superpower and its exploitative workplace conditions, former Amazon workers have teamed up with the Free and Fair Markets Initiative to create a hotline to report unsafe working conditions.
The Free and Fair Markets Initiative is a nonprofit watchdog group advocating for labor rights. It was founded specifically to scrutinize Amazon’s “harmful practices.”
Along with former Amazon employees, the group set up a hotline for workers to report hazards like dangerous machinery, extreme heat, injuries and other unfair and unsafe conditions. The page announcing the creation of the hotline says it is designed to help injured employees neglected by Amazon to get the aid they need. The page provides both a number to call and a form to fill out. It also advises workers on how to file official Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) complaints. It allows workers to bypass taking it up with their company, which helps them avoid a fear of retribution for speaking out.
Accounts of Amazon’s unsafe and, at times, downright abusive working conditions have recently been heavily covered in the media while Amazon’s power, wealth and influence grows. This year’s Prime Day bringing in a record number of sales, even with widespread worker strikes and supporter protests throughout the world.
For the past two years, Amazon has been listed on the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH)’s “Dirty Dozen” report, which compiles data on factors like worker deaths and safety violations to name the 12 worst companies to work for based on the communities and workers they put at risk. The 2019 report states Amazon saw six worker deaths in seven months and 13 deaths since 2013. The report also lists recent investigations uncovered high incidents of suicide attempts, workers urinating in bottles afraid to take bathroom breaks and workers left without resources or income after on-the-job injuries.
A Mother Jones article profiles a young woman who sustained such severe injuries working at Amazon that she could not type without the aid of voice dictation software. She received inadequate healthcare compensation from the company and was left unable to work between doctor’s appointments and trying to finish her degree. She likened the atmosphere of Amazon to a sweatshop.
“The only injuries Amazon ever seemed to take seriously, she says, involved blood,” the article said. “The main concern, it seemed, was not getting stains on the merchandise.”
This year, a Daily Beast investigation found 189 emergency calls were made from 46 Amazon sites regarding workers having mental breakdowns and attempting suicide in the workplace.
Amazon has repeatedly denied claims of unsafe conditions in their facilities. In a statement to Vice, which reported the creation of the hotline, the company said they work to provide a safe work environment for employees.
“We work hard to provide a safe, quality work environment for our associates, who are encouraged to provide feedback through public and private channels and are always welcome to talk to leaders at their site — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Amazon said. “All of this is on top of our industry-leading $15 minimum wage and comprehensive benefits starting on day one—we encourage anyone to compare our safety record, employer practices, and work conditions with any major employer or retailer.”
Coverage of dismal working conditions in the past few years have been such a PR nightmare for Amazon, they appointed employees on Twitter as “Amazon FC Ambassadors” to advocate for the company and tweet their positive experiences.
I suffer from depression too, and at one point I wanted to quit Amazon. But I realized it was my fault for the problems I was dealing with, and not Amazon's. I'm allowed to talk to people, but sometimes I don't want to. Now I have some great coworkers to pass the nights with.
— Hannah – Amazon FC Ambassador 📦 (@AmazonFCHannah) August 15, 2019
However, even then, other former employees came forward to tell their own stories and refute the ambassadors’ claims.
Hi, real ex-amazon employee here and I hated my job 🙂 it made me miserable and I made my depression worse than it had ever been in my life. They treat you like you're a cog in a machine. Jeff Bezzos is a money hoarder that couldn't care less about his employees
— Θεμίδα ☮ (@sabrina__nika) August 15, 2019
Me too, Sabrina! I even developed a whole new mental illness while working there that I have for life now. Thanks, Amazon!
— cat lady (@Salgay) August 16, 2019