As reported in The Guardian On February 5, 2020 Amazon employees feel as though their working conditions are unfair as they are expected to do an inhumane amount of work in an hour. One worker in a New York warehouse claims she worked three 12 hour shifts a week and is expected to inspect and scan 1,800 packages an hour, that is equal to 30 packages a minute.
When 600 workers signed a petition for better work conditions they asked for one 30 minute break, instead of two 15 minute breaks, due to the length of the walk to the break room. The workers also asked Amazon for more reliable public transit services to the warehouse. In the petition they also brought to attention the high injury rates in the facility.
Injuries in the Amazon warehouses were found to be 3 times higher than their competitors, in a study done by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). A worker in the Amazon warehouse in New York, Rina Cummings, claims to be “at the mercy of God” when trying to prevent an injury due to Amazon’s failure to properly maintain safety precautions in the workplace. The only changes that were made after the high injury report was to install video monitors around the warehouse that tell workers safety is the company’s number one priority. “There has been no real change. There are still injuries. They were saying the report is not accurate, but it’s just a way for them to avoid responsibility,” Cummings said. She also reported that a few weeks ago a pin in a conveyor belt almost took her hand after it tore off one of her work gloves. Also, Cummings said that oftentimes the Amazon packages that land on the conveyor belt are too large, improperly packaged, or contain liquid the packages will burst open onto the belt, injuring the Amazon package.
Rina Cummings has impaired vision and must have disability accommodations at her job. She says often her new managers will try and place her into new departments where she is unable to work successfully in. Once a manager asked Cummings, “are you sure you can’t see?” Her mobility counselor shortle after sent a letter to the company with suggestions on how to accommodate Cummings better, but they were ignored by Amazon.
Employees throughout Amazon are all expected to work at a rate that is barely possible for them to accomplish. Juan Espinoza worked as a picker in the Amazon warehouse in Staten Island and was expected to “pick 400 units within the hour in seven seconds of each item we picked,” said Espinoza. “I couldn’t handle it. I’m a human being, not a robot.” Espinoza shortly after quit due to the intense working conditions. Ilya Geller, who worked as a stower, said that “You’re being tracked by a computer the entire time you’re there. You don’t get reported or written up by managers. You get written up by an algorithm. You’re keenly aware there is an algorithm keeping track of you, making sure you keep going as fast as you can, because if there is too much time lapsed between items, the computer will know this, will write you up, and you will get fired.” An Amazon spokesperson told the Guardian, “Like most companies, we have performance expectations for every Amazonian and we measure actual performance against those expectations.” Jimpat Lacewell started working at Amazon in Staten Island as a sorter, but quit after three days because it reminded him of a prison “I would rather go back to a state correctional facility and work for 18 cents an hour than do that job.”
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