Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Amazon adds AC in 100-degree PA sweatshop

The online retail giant responds to the Allentown Call's story describing Third World working conditions at its Lehigh Valley warehouse

Amazon adds AC in 100-degree PA sweatshop

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Allentown Morning Call's Steve Soper's Sept. 20 story about the sweatshop, high-turnover, low-pay conditions at Amazon.com's suburban Bethlehem warehouse, one of at least four Amazon.com warehouses designed to exploit upstate Pennsylvania's cheap land, high industrial unemployment, and favorable online retail tax policies, has provoked this response from Amazon boss Jeff Bezos' PR machine:

"A Message from Amazon - September 22, 2011

"There's been recent news coverage regarding temperatures and working conditions in our Breinigsville, Pennsylvania, fulfillment center.

"Certain parts of the country experienced unusually high temperatures this summer. We spent more than $2.4 million urgently installing industrial air conditioning units in four of our fulfillment centers, including our Breinigsville facility.

"These industrial air conditioning units were online and operational by late July and early August. This was not mandated by any governmental agency, and in fact air conditioning remains an unusual practice in warehouses. We'll continue to operate these air conditioning units or equivalent ones in future summers.

"We have temporary employees working in our facilities for two reasons - to manage variation in customer demand throughout the year and as a way of finding high-quality full-time employees.

"There are 1,381 full-time employees in Breinigsville, all of whom receive full-time benefits including healthcare. Since January of this year, 850 temporary employees in Breinigsville have been converted to full-time employment.

"We welcome and embrace questions about our preparedness and planning, and indeed we routinely ask those internally, but those who know us well don't doubt our intent or our focus on employee safety."

Got that? Amazon.com turns on the air conditioning when the temperature hits 100 degrees! Even though the government doesn't force it to!

Kind of makes you miss the Post Office, or at least United Parcel Service's West Chester loading facility, where the 3 a.m. shift I worked to pay for my 1988 wedding was also pretty tough, but conditions were at least respectable, and Teamsters Local 936 had my back.

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About this blog

PhillyDeals posts interviews, drafts and updates that Joseph N. DiStefano writes alongside his Sunday and Monday columns and ongoing articles about Philadelphia-area business.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn. He taught writing and research at St. Joe’s. He has written for the Inquirer since 1989, except when he left a few times to work at Bloomberg and elsewhere. He wrote the book Comcasted, and raised six kids with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com, 215.854.5194, @PhillyJoeD. Read his blog posts at http://www.philly.com/PhillyDeals and his Inquirer columns at http://www.philly.com/philly/columnists/joseph-distefano/. Bloomberg posts his items at NH BLG_PHILLYDEAL.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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