On Monday, December 2, workers and activists protested in large numbers outside the apartment of Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, in Manhattan, New York, against the treatment meted out by the company to its employees. Workers in Amazon warehouses have repeatedly complained of dangerous work conditions. Around 100 workers also picketed Amazon’s San Bernardino warehousing facility on ‘Cyber Monday,’ a mega sale day by Amazon.
The Cyber Monday protests came on the heels of the massive protests during the ‘Black Friday’ sales by the company last week. Workers have consistently highlighted the hazardous work conditions they face at Amazon warehouses, called fulfilment centers. As per recent investigations, in 23 out of 110 Amazon fulfillment centers, illness, accidents and injuries to the workers are three times more likely than the general average in the warehousing industry.
Amazon workers have been protesting for years for better working standards. The company’s own records compiled by the advocacy group Make The Road, and submitted to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), substantiate these claims. Amazon’s JFK8 fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York, has more injuries reported annually than in occupations and sectors that are deemed hazardous under US federal law, like coal mining and waste collection. A week ago, close to 600 workers at this facility signed a petition demanding longer break hours and dedicated transport facility for workers who travels miles to and from work. On November 25, close to 150 workers picketed the facility.
Despite such damning data and records being out in the open, Amazon has refused to concede the fact that working conditions at its warehouses are, as Make The Road New York puts it, “dangerous”. Amazon has routinely dismissed the protests and petitions by large sections of its employees as “small incidents” that see only “minority” participation. However, the workers’ accelerating protests point to a different truth.