Amazon workers in Minnesota and New York demonstrate for improved working conditions for warehouse workers

With Amazon’s mega Black Friday Sale and Cyber Monday sales being just around the corner, Amazon is busy trying to tackling a situation that does not involve their upcoming sales what so ever. Late on Monday night, the workers at Amazon Shakopee, Minnesota held another one of their protests demanding a new workplace safety committee as a next for the ongoing campaign to improve protection against on-job injuries.

After several trikes by the workers, Amazon is in a bind as the Amazon warehouse already has a safety committee. Still, the employees are not very satisfied with it as according to the workers, the members on the committee aren’t selected by the workers. The committee has also been accused of overseeing many significant concerns, including worker injuries.

An organizer at the Amazon warehouse has made it clear that the employees are ready to take further actions if the company fails to fulfil the demands. This is not the first demonstration at the warehouse as another one was held on the Prime Day of this year. The employees’ concern has risen after they witness several workers suffering from injuries that were a result of fast pace, repetitive work.

Although, in recent years, Amazon has taken several steps to show how much they care for their employees. Last year, Amazon raised the minimum wage to $15 for an hour and invested a hefty sum of $700 on a worker retaining the program. Moreover, Amazon assured everyone that they have a multi-layered safety protocol in place for the safety of their employees and to add to its credibility Amazon has also added warehouse tours for the public. Last but not least, Amazon has also launched an ad campaign that highlights the employees of fulfilment centres and the perks they receive.

It’s not just Minnesota, but employees from all around the country are discontent with Amazon’s lack of actions towards worker safety. Amazonians United Sacramento and DCH1 Amazonians United Chicago are two of many other organizations that are demanding better working conditions.

Along with Shakopee workers, workers at Amazons’ warehouse in Staten Island, New York also held a demonstration on Monday. The warehouse was opened in September 2018, and since then the warehouse, also known as JFK8 made itself a reputation for being the most unsafe workplace due to its injury and accident rate being three times more than industry average.

“When you crunch those basic numbers from Amazon’s own submission, it’s staggering,They have higher rates of injuries, and the injuries themselves are incredibly severe, compared to the national average, compared to the national warehouse average, and compared to industries that are known for being very dangerous like solid waste collection, policing. […] Amazon knows it has an injury crisis going on at the JFK8 facility,” explained the staff lawyer with nonprofit Make the Road, Frank Kearl.

If any severe injury occurs in an organization, then the administration needs to fill and submit the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 300 form while the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 300a form shows the aggregate of all the injuries that are recorded within each year. Based on the numbers recorded in the OSHA forms, JFK8 had a score of 15.19 in 2018. When compared to a 6.1 of sawmills, and 10.2 of steel foundries, the incident rate of JFK8 is way higher than it should be.

The numbers are internally produced and are mandated by the government. Moreover, the numbers support the research by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health. The report concluded its findings after conducting several surveys and interviews with 145 workers. However, Amazon dismissed the report by calling the report “an example of selective data skewed to support false statements by an organization that’s sole business objective is to misinform the public on Amazon’s safety record.”

The data in OSHA documents only cover a portion of the month as JFK8 opened only on September 8, but the incidents rate within the short period certainly questions the safety measures taken by the company. During the peak season of 2018 (from around Thanksgiving to New Years) workers reported increased hours, mandatory overtime, and restrictions on vacation days which may have contributed to the injury rate.

Although the injuries reported in OSHA included sprains and bruises, the workers say otherwise. A JFK8 worker reported that he knew a woman working there suffered from a miscarriage. The woman was apparently five months pregnant and had asked the manager to put her in a different section where she might have less intense physical labor, but her request fell on deaf ears. The story was corroborated by another worker.

With workers striking, Amazon has also been accused of under-recording of safety incidents which only pulls Amazon into a deeper hole. With their peak season coming, the company is desperately trying to sort the issues on hand.

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