Amazon's Warehouse Workers Pass Out From Excessive Heat
It's like the Amazon in there.
An investigation conducted by The Morning Call newspaper with 20 employees of an Amazon.com warehouse in Lehigh Valley, Penn., uncovered subpar working conditions. Among the key revelations uncovered by the investigation were building temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit, mandatory overtime policies and unrealistic production expectations.
Just one of the 20 interviewed by the survey said that they approved of the conditions at the Amazon plant.
The investigation stemmed from the departure of one employee in July. Thirty-four year old Elmer Goris gave notice after reaching his breaking point. Among the incidents that pushed him over the edge was seeing co-workers both pass out at the water fountain and being wheeled off by paramedics.
"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 told The Morning Call. "They can do that because there aren't any jobs in the area."
Many of the workers are brought on board at Amazon.com on temporary status. Among the ads they responded to are ones like the following: "Are you interested in working in a fun, fast-paced atmosphere earning up to $12.25 per hour?"
But even Amazon.com has shown that they are aware of the realities of the working conditions in eastern Pennsylvania. During a heat wave this past summer, the digital shopping behemoth had paramedics at the ready in the event of any heat-induced on-site incident.
And when contacted by PCMag, Amazon acknowledged the lack of proper cooling throughout its centers.
"Our fulfillment team was dealing with record hot temperatures this past summer. We have air conditioning in some FC's -- Phoenix, Ariz. for example -- but we haven't historically had air conditioning in our east coast fulfillment centers. We're in the process of adding air conditioning to additional FC's so that we're prepared in case what we saw this past summer becomes the new normal," an Amazon spokesperson said via e-mail to PCMag.
The lengthy Morning Call investigation details a timeline of complaints and investigations involving Amazon, its workers and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The fallout has led to plans to change the way facilities are cooled, as well as an update on other labor practices, such as one in which workers will be allowed to go home early when heat is excessive.
Founded in 1994, the world's largest online retailer stands out for its long-term success in a digital world that sees boom and bust nearly every six months. With some 33,700 employees, Amazon.com had revenues in 2010 exceeding $34 billion. It has been able to hold up for more than 17 years by constantly innovating. In addition to its signature retail offerings, it has pioneered the use of Kindles and "cloud" computing.
And as was reported on AOL Jobs in June, Amazon.com continues to expand. Amid the protracted fight over taxing Internet commerce, Amazon.com agreed with the South Carolina state legislature to open a new distribution center provided the commerce it produces is exempt from sales tax. In total, the new center located near the city of Cayce will offer some 2,000 jobs.
"The storm has passed and it's a beautiful day in the Midlands," Amazon Vice President Paul Misener said at the news.
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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