Amazon’s shopping cart for workers in Breinigsville, Pennsylvania: extreme heat, threats, intimidation, temporary employment only, and no benefits. But don’t worry, they keep a paramedic waiting outside, ready to cart off workers who can’t handle working in a sweatshop. The 100-degree heat at the Breinigsville warehouse illustrates Amazon’s attitude toward workers’ rights. Rather than turn up the air conditioning and have a safe working environment, Amazon would prefer to just have an ambulance waiting.
Amazon’s Pennsylvania workers drive the company’s phenomenal profit margins. Workers in Breinigsville turn your online order into the package that shows up at your door. Hundreds of thousands of orders are processed around the clock each day. These employees make Amazon work, but in the company’s eyes they are nameless, faceless, temps. Technically, they aren’t even Amazon employees.
The Morning Call of Allentown, Pennsylvania, has documented in horrifying detail the dangerous working conditions at Amazon’s massive Breinigsville shipping facility. Heat is only part of the problem. The workers are being overtaxed with long shifts and unrealistic demands that are leading to injuries—like processing 500 units an hour. As reported in The Morning Call, Amazon is simply churning through a pool of temporary workers, grinding them down and then casting them aside. By design, these workers have no voice, no protections, and no future with Amazon.
Sadly, like so many employers, Amazon is using the Great Recession as an excuse to squeeze workers. In 2010 Amazon took in an amazing $34 billion in profits. Clearly, there’s plenty of room for Amazon to still be extremely profitable and be a responsible employer. Instead, Amazon is emulating Walmart’s race-to-the-bottom model. Amazon needs American workers to make their business model work, but they don’t believe they need to treat those workers well.
Even if Amazon improves the air conditioning at Breinigsville (as they claim to be doing), larger problems remain. Instead of helping America recover from the economic crash, Amazon is taking advantage of vulnerable workers. Tell Amazon to do the right thing and provide good, family-supporting—jobs to America’s workers.