Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Amazon.com's PA sweatshops

Workers report 100-degree heat and high turnover for $11-$12 an hour jobs at Amazon.com's new Lehigh Valley warehouses

Amazon.com's PA sweatshops

Allentown Morning Call reporter Spencer Soper in this story "interviewed 20 current and former warehouse workers" at Amazon.com's Breiningsville, Pa. facilities, who "offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it's like to work in the Amazon warehouses, 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." Excerpts:

"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...

"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...

"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...

"Temporary employees interviewed said few people in their working groups actually made it to a permanent Amazon position. Instead, they said they were pushed harder and harder to work faster and faster until they were terminated, they quit or they got injured. Those interviewed say turnover at the warehouse is high and many hires don't last more than a few months.

"The supply of temporary workers keeps Amazon's warehouse fully staffed without the expense of a permanent workforce that expects raises and good benefits. Using temporary employees in general also helps reduce the prospect that employees will organize a union."

Says Amazon: "We strive to offer our customers the lowest prices possible through low everyday product pricing and free shipping offers … and to improve our operating efficiencies so that we can continue to lower prices for our customers." 

"Amazon and ISS both said they take the safety of workers seriously, but declined to discuss specific concerns current and former employees voiced to The Morning Call."

Joseph N. DiStefano
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PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

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

Joseph N. DiStefano
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