[ Inside Amazon's warehouse
Lehigh Valley workers tell of brutal heat, dizzying pace at online retailer.
By Spencer Soper, Of The Morning Call
10:34 PM EDT, September 17, 2011
Elmer Goris spent a year working in Amazon.com's Lehigh Valley warehouse, where books, CDs and various other products are packed and shipped to customers who order from the world's largest online retailer.
The 34-year-old Allentown resident, who has worked in warehouses for more than 10 years, said he quit in July because he was frustrated with the heat and demands that he work mandatory overtime. Working conditions at the warehouse got worse earlier this year, especially during summer heat waves when heat in the warehouse soared above 100 degrees, he said.
He got light-headed, he said, and his legs cramped, symptoms he never experienced in previous warehouse jobs. One hot day, Goris said, he saw a co-worker pass out at the water fountain. On other hot days, he saw paramedics bring people out of the warehouse in wheelchairs and on stretchers.
"I never felt like passing out in a warehouse and I never felt treated like a piece of crap in any other warehouse but this one," Goris said. "They can do that because there aren't any jobs in the area."
Goris' complaints are not unique. ]
[ "Over the past two months, The Morning Call interviewed 20 current and former warehouse workers who showed pay stubs, tax forms or other proof of employment. They offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it's like to work in the Amazon warehouse, where temperatures soar on hot summer days, production rates are difficult to achieve and the permanent jobs sought by many temporary workers hired by an outside agency are tough to get.
Only one of the employees interviewed described it as a good place to work.
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. ]
There is much more, and it's all horrifying. End slavery at Amazon. This is the single retail success this nation has had and it's built like this.
Today I saw yet again another march of the students and the young people, of ethnic heritage diversity -- and they are all young, either still in school or graduated recently with thousands of debt and no jobs available to pay it off -- who are protesting all week down at Wall Street. Among the constant broadcast is CORPORATIONS ARE NOT PEOPLE. These people all looked healthy, well-nourished, with those perfect, even white teeth that means much money spent by parents at the dentists when young. Their children won't have braces and caps though.
By the way you haven't heard about this week-long sit-in protest at Wall Street, have you? Yet it is making for a lot of cop overtime, and they march every day. Once they were even 'kettled' (the term cops use for crowd control, to keep everybody in a crowd / demonstration in one place so they don't spread out) right here on my street, with either end blocked by cops and their cars and their horses.