It is no secret that workers at Amazon distribution centers work in frequently intolerable conditions, even before the onslaught of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Amazon itself released data revealing that injury rates at one of its warehouses were three times the industry average. An investigation by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting reviewed injury records from 23 of the company’s 110 fulfillment centers showed that the rate of serious injuries was 9.6 per 100 full-time workers – compared to an industry average of 4 per 100. Workers have described being on their feet for 12 hour shifts, walking a total of 15 to 20 miles in a day. In at least one warehouse, there have been reports of a vending machine carrying over the counter pain medication for workers. Workers have complained that every single activity is monitored and tracked, and that they are subject to discipline for such basic activities as using the bathroom or getting a drink of water, and that supervisors receive reports of employees’ bathroom time. Beyond the Orwellian tracking of employees’ every single activities, Amazon expects its workers to work at a grueling pace, and workers have complained of back sprains, bulging discs, joint inflammation, and chronic pain.
Set against these already disturbing working conditions is the fact that COVID-19 is wreaking havoc in some of Amazon’s warehouses. As of May 21, at least 8 Amazon workers nationwide had tragically passed away from COVID-19, including one in Waukegan, Illinois. Amazon has not disclosed how many workers have tested positive. In fact, a Vice President at Amazon Web Services resigned his position after he alleged that the company was “firing whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of COVID-19.” Meanwhile, despite these deplorable working conditions that COVID-19 has worsened, Amazon has seen a surge in business due to people staying at home; this means that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos could be a trillionaire by 2026.
Amazon workers getting hurt and sick at work is not a remote or faraway problem – Amazon has several facilities throughout Illinois and especially in Chicagoland – such as in Joliet, Edwardsville, Wood Dale, Naperville, Monee, and others. These workers are friends, family, neighbors, who deserve to have a safe and healthy place to work, where they are not treated like machines and are not at risk for contracting a deadly disease.