Monday, September 19, 2011

Adventures in the 21st century: Amazon warehouse a hellhole

This summer, an un-air-conditioned warehouse in Pennsylvania was so hot that the company stationed ambulances onsite to take workers stricken by the high temperatures to a local hospital. The hospital, for its part, was so alarmed at all the Amazon workers being dumped there that it complained directly to OSHA. Meanwhile, it seems the majority of the workers were $12-an-hour temps, and when one collapsed, there were always more to take his or her place. (I almost said "its" place.)

According to the local paper, the Allentown Morning Call:

Workers said they were forced to endure brutal heat inside the sprawling warehouse and were pushed to work at a pace many could not sustain. Employees were frequently reprimanded regarding their productivity and threatened with termination, workers said. The consequences of not meeting work expectations were regularly on display, as employees lost their jobs and got escorted out of the warehouse. Such sights encouraged some workers to conceal pain and push through injury lest they get fired as well, workers said.

During summer heat waves, Amazon arranged to have paramedics parked in ambulances outside, ready to treat any workers who dehydrated or suffered other forms of heat stress. Those who couldn't quickly cool off and return to work were sent home or taken out in stretchers and wheelchairs and transported to area hospitals. And new applicants were ready to begin work at any time.

An emergency room doctor in June called federal regulators to report an "unsafe environment" after he treated several Amazon warehouse workers for heat-related problems. The doctor's report was echoed by warehouse workers who also complained to regulators, including a security guard who reported seeing pregnant employees suffering in the heat.

In a better economy, not as many people would line up for jobs that pay $11 or $12 an hour moving inventory through a hot warehouse. But with job openings scarce, Amazon and Integrity Staffing Solutions, the temporary employment firm that is hiring workers for Amazon, have found eager applicants in the swollen ranks of the unemployed.

That's life in George Bush's America. Oh, you say Bush isn't President anymore? Well, he is -- anywhere workers are exploited and treated like firewood in a non-union workplace, where they are subjected to speed-ups and feel they can't even report injuries -- Bush is the President there.

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