Warehouse workers deserve better conditions

Rewon Shimray | Cartoonist

Amazon’s “working for Amazon” tab on its website boasts about employees who bring their dogs or their kayak to work and how great their “urban campus” amenities are in their downtown Seattle headquarters. What they don’t boast about is how hard their warehouse employees work.

If you ask the average person what they think of Amazon, the response will most likely be positive. After all, it offers a convenient service to quickly purchase whatever the heart desires. But few will consider the human cost associated with fast shipping times and low prices.

Tech companies that preach good working conditions for their corporate employees need to have the same stance when it comes to their warehouse workers.

The New York Times called Amazon’s treatment of warehouse employees “an experiment in how far it can push blue-collar workers to get them to achieve its ever-expanding ambitions.”

The New York Times also reported that in Amazon warehouses, employees are monitored by electronic systems to ensure they are packing enough boxes every hour. Amazon was criticized in 2011 when workers in an eastern Pennsylvania warehouse labored in above 100-degree heat with ambulances waiting outside, taking workers away as they collapsed. After an investigation by the local newspaper, the company finally installed air-conditioning.

The Huffington Post article “The Life and Death of an Amazon Warehouse Temp” tells the story of Jeff Lockhart Jr., a 29-year-old father of three who collapsed during his shift at an Amazon warehouse in Pennsylvania in 2013 and died later that evening.

His story reveals the harsh working conditions, including timed bathroom breaks, unhealthy quotas and unrealistic working hours – in Lockhart’s case, sometimes upwards of 80 hours per week.

This sort of treatment to blue-collar workers is unacceptable always; it is even more unacceptable when we know the company is capable of treating employees well in other settings.

On the opposite extremes companies like Amazon, Google or Facebook treat their corporate employees like royalty – making sure their corporate offices are fully stocked with plenty of food options free of charge, napping stations, swimming pools, free haircuts, free childcare, and even a ball pit for employees to relieve stress in Google’s case.

The same standards and workplace philosophies should be implemented across the board at companies. Warehouse employees should be treated with the same respect and care as corporate employees when it comes to their day-to-day working conditions. As consumers, we should consider the ethics of the companies before spending our money.