Author Topic: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions  (Read 1073 times)

ministashy

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Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« on: July 12, 2018, 09:00:31 AM »
I'll preface this by saying that I completely support any workforce who wants to organize or form a union--whatever their faults, I feel that unions are a necessary counterbalance to help protect workers against the unfair advantage most businesses have when it comes to determining pay, benefits, etcetera. 

That said, I've been reading up on the Amazon Prime Day strikes.  And my biggest problem with it is that I can't figure out what they're striking for.  Is it better wages and benefits?  Or is it--as many media pieces have been alleging recently--because Amazon warehouses have become the modern-day equivalent of sweat shops?  Because I have to say I'm not seeing it.  Other than a few egregious examples of mismanagement (not putting HVAC into warehouses and allowing people to collapse from heat exhaustion being one example), the majority of the complaints I'm reading seem to be of the 'but the work is physically hard/stressful!' and 'they don't care about me as a person/I report to a computer'.  At which point I'm going ... 'yeah, so?'  How is this different from any number of other unskilled/semiskilled jobs?

So I wanted to put it out there--what do other Mustachians think?  Especially those who are familiar with blue-collar or warehouse work, unlike us office jockeys.   Are Amazon's working conditions truly that bad?  What makes them worse than their competitors?

OtherJen

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2018, 10:07:38 AM »
I'll preface this by saying that I completely support any workforce who wants to organize or form a union--whatever their faults, I feel that unions are a necessary counterbalance to help protect workers against the unfair advantage most businesses have when it comes to determining pay, benefits, etcetera. 

That said, I've been reading up on the Amazon Prime Day strikes.  And my biggest problem with it is that I can't figure out what they're striking for.  Is it better wages and benefits?  Or is it--as many media pieces have been alleging recently--because Amazon warehouses have become the modern-day equivalent of sweat shops?  Because I have to say I'm not seeing it.  Other than a few egregious examples of mismanagement (not putting HVAC into warehouses and allowing people to collapse from heat exhaustion being one example), the majority of the complaints I'm reading seem to be of the 'but the work is physically hard/stressful!' and 'they don't care about me as a person/I report to a computer'.  At which point I'm going ... 'yeah, so?'  How is this different from any number of other unskilled/semiskilled jobs?

So I wanted to put it out there--what do other Mustachians think?  Especially those who are familiar with blue-collar or warehouse work, unlike us office jockeys.   Are Amazon's working conditions truly that bad?  What makes them worse than their competitors?

I can't speak for all of it, although I grew up in a blue-collar union household and my father worked in a factory without AC. It was very hard on him physically. He was well compensated for his effort, though, and has a good pension. I don't think the same is necessarily true for current and/or non-union factory workers.

One complaint I've seen is the inability of workers in some Amazon warehouses to even take bathroom breaks. I don't know if that's a systemic issue at Amazon, but honestly, any workplace that pushes its employees that hard is asking for trouble. During college, I spent a summer waitressing at a chain restaurant where we regularly worked 12-hour shifts with one break if we were lucky (on Friday or Saturday night, forget it). That was a good recipe for UTIs and kidney issues. The bar staff tended to take care of the waitstaff and would sneak us milkshakes (because we didn't get meal breaks), but there was only so much they could do. I finally quit after slicing my hand open in the kitchen while trying to cover my tables and another section on a Friday night with no help from management; said management was on the phone 48 hours later demanding that I work my full shifts despite the healing wound on my hand.

I know that it doesn't have to be that way because I moved to a job at another restaurant where the sections were smaller, the kitchen was much better organized, and everyone was happier and safer.

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2018, 10:20:57 AM »
As I understand another big issue is that they use a very high percentage of permanent temp workers to skirt out of benefits.
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bacchi

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2018, 10:36:17 AM »
And that the workers clock out and then stand in line for 30 minutes to an hour to be frisked before they can leave the premises.

GuitarStv

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2018, 10:50:05 AM »
And that the workers clock out and then stand in line for 30 minutes to an hour to be frisked before they can leave the premises.

I don't understand how that could possibly be legal.  If the company wants to take employee time to do something (in this case searches), they need to pay the employees for that time.
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Slee_stack

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2018, 10:52:58 AM »
Something reads fishy.

I thought Europe (in general) was fairly pro-worker...relatively speaking.

If the company is stealing time, denying restroom breaks, etc... it shouldn't be hard to catch that...

monstermonster

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2018, 10:59:57 AM »
The big issue in the states is the amount of contract work (which gives you practically no protections in the states); and time theft.

Having worked many jobs where bathroom breaks are limited/nonexistent (Void Where Prohibited: Rest Breaks and the Right to Urinate on Company Time is a book on this and the lack of regulations in the states on this at least; some factories require employees to wear diapers) it's  a huge issue. When working office jobs I'm struck by just how easy it is to be in control of your elimination schedule.

If there's no AC when doing physical labor; that's incredibly hard on your body. Working in both farming and laundries, the heat combined with long workdays is quite rough, if a multi-billion dollar corporation can afford to have warehouses, they can afford to install climate control.
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bacchi

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2018, 11:03:18 AM »
And that the workers clock out and then stand in line for 30 minutes to an hour to be frisked before they can leave the premises.

I don't understand how that could possibly be legal.  If the company wants to take employee time to do something (in this case searches), they need to pay the employees for that time.

Agreed but I believe (can't find it now) that a court decided that it was legal.

It's not only in the US; warehouses in the UK and Germany are also mistreating workers.

https://www.thenation.com/article/hundreds-german-workers-amazon-walk-job/
http://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-warehouse-workers-have-to-pee-into-bottles-2018-4

Re: the problems in Germany,

Quote
Amazon later said it canceled the contract with that security company whose guards were accused of harassing workers, searching their rooms and frisking them to make sure they had not taken food from the dining room, Businessweek reports.

Did the security company get overzealous on their own or did Amazon have to roll back their too harsh restrictions?

shenlong55

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2018, 11:03:42 AM »
And that the workers clock out and then stand in line for 30 minutes to an hour to be frisked before they can leave the premises.

I don't understand how that could possibly be legal.  If the company wants to take employee time to do something (in this case searches), they need to pay the employees for that time.

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/10/business/supreme-court-rules-against-worker-pay-for-security-screenings.html

Samuel

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2018, 11:05:13 AM »
And that the workers clock out and then stand in line for 30 minutes to an hour to be frisked before they can leave the premises.

I don't understand how that could possibly be legal.  If the company wants to take employee time to do something (in this case searches), they need to pay the employees for that time.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that workers who fill orders in Amazon.com warehouses need not be paid for the time they spend going through security checks to ensure they have not stolen any products.

The court reversed a lower-court ruling for the workers, who alleged they spent up to 25 minutes waiting to go through security clearance at warehouses in Nevada.

But Justice Clarence Thomas said federal law requires that workers be paid for activities before and after their shifts only when the activities are “integral and indispensable” to the job they are hired to perform.

“The court of appeals erred by focusing on whether an ­employer required a particular activity,” Thomas wrote. “The integral and indispensable test is tied to the productive work that the employee is employed to perform.”


https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-rules-amazon-doesnt-have-to-pay-for-after-hours-time-in-security-lines/2014/12/09/05c67c0c-7fb9-11e4-81fd-8c4814dfa9d7_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.345839fc3ab9

GuitarStv

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2018, 11:29:36 AM »
And that the workers clock out and then stand in line for 30 minutes to an hour to be frisked before they can leave the premises.

I don't understand how that could possibly be legal.  If the company wants to take employee time to do something (in this case searches), they need to pay the employees for that time.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that workers who fill orders in Amazon.com warehouses need not be paid for the time they spend going through security checks to ensure they have not stolen any products.

The court reversed a lower-court ruling for the workers, who alleged they spent up to 25 minutes waiting to go through security clearance at warehouses in Nevada.

But Justice Clarence Thomas said federal law requires that workers be paid for activities before and after their shifts only when the activities are “integral and indispensable” to the job they are hired to perform.

“The court of appeals erred by focusing on whether an ­employer required a particular activity,” Thomas wrote. “The integral and indispensable test is tied to the productive work that the employee is employed to perform.”


https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-rules-amazon-doesnt-have-to-pay-for-after-hours-time-in-security-lines/2014/12/09/05c67c0c-7fb9-11e4-81fd-8c4814dfa9d7_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.345839fc3ab9

If the security checks are not integral and indispensable to the job, then (as an employee) I'd opt out of doing them.
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Dabnasty

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2018, 11:49:08 AM »
And that the workers clock out and then stand in line for 30 minutes to an hour to be frisked before they can leave the premises.

I don't understand how that could possibly be legal.  If the company wants to take employee time to do something (in this case searches), they need to pay the employees for that time.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that workers who fill orders in Amazon.com warehouses need not be paid for the time they spend going through security checks to ensure they have not stolen any products.

The court reversed a lower-court ruling for the workers, who alleged they spent up to 25 minutes waiting to go through security clearance at warehouses in Nevada.

But Justice Clarence Thomas said federal law requires that workers be paid for activities before and after their shifts only when the activities are “integral and indispensable” to the job they are hired to perform.

“The court of appeals erred by focusing on whether an ­employer required a particular activity,” Thomas wrote. “The integral and indispensable test is tied to the productive work that the employee is employed to perform.”


https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-rules-amazon-doesnt-have-to-pay-for-after-hours-time-in-security-lines/2014/12/09/05c67c0c-7fb9-11e4-81fd-8c4814dfa9d7_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.345839fc3ab9

If the security checks are not integral and indispensable to the job, then (as an employee) I'd opt out of doing them.

Right? Does this ruling mean an employer can require the screening or not? And does this give them the right to make it take as long as is needed? Based on the ruling the amount of time it takes is irrelevant. What if it took 2 hours?

From the NY Times article,
Quote
an Amazon spokeswoman said “employees walk through postshift security screening with little or no wait.”

Oh good, then let's put the time clock on the other side of screenings. Shouldn't be a problem, right?

Johnez

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #12 on: July 12, 2018, 02:35:32 PM »
I work in a warehouse currently, my employer takes VERY good care of us. While I think some of Amazon's practices are dumb, there are tons of other warehouses hiring. I would hope workers are looking for better jobs while fighting for better conditions.  If there's one sure way to improve conditions-its finding better conditions.

BlueMR2

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #13 on: July 12, 2018, 05:25:49 PM »
And that the workers clock out and then stand in line for 30 minutes to an hour to be frisked before they can leave the premises.

I don't understand how that could possibly be legal.  If the company wants to take employee time to do something (in this case searches), they need to pay the employees for that time.

I worked at a large computer shop back in the day (around 20 years ago) and that's one of the things I remember most.  Clocking out, then getting in the search line.  Luckily they were pretty efficient and I was normally out in 10 minutes or so.  Hated it when they did run long though because that cut into my already too short time to grab Supper and drive across town to start my second job.

I've heard some pretty horrific things about Amazon warehouse jobs, but it's all 3rd hand.  Could just be disgruntled employees for any reason.  I've also heard some negatives about the professional/software side of working for Amazon, but honestly reports are not bad compared to a normal startup...

TheWifeHalf

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #14 on: July 12, 2018, 09:44:02 PM »
I don't know anything about Amazon, but have been married to a union member for 37 years. IME, what the public knows about a union, employer or what is stated in the contract is usually just a tip if the iceberg when it comes to what the company/employee are discussing about benefits, responsibilities, or strikes.

ministashy

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #15 on: July 13, 2018, 08:41:13 AM »
I don't know anything about Amazon, but have been married to a union member for 37 years. IME, what the public knows about a union, employer or what is stated in the contract is usually just a tip if the iceberg when it comes to what the company/employee are discussing about benefits, responsibilities, or strikes.

I can understand that--however, I feel that if the union is asking the public to support them during a strike, they have a better chance of rallying them to their cause if they can lay out what exactly their reasons for striking are.  Like the schoolteacher strikes, most recently--it was very clear why they were striking, and people supported that.  With all the rumblings about a Prime Day strike on Amazon, I haven't heard this messaging.  (To be fair, though, it seems the only planned strike is focused on a warehouse in Spain--I've not seen any U.S. based ones deciding to join in.)

I don't want to cross a strike line if people truly are fighting against awful/unreasonable working conditions, but I guess I'm just having a hard time figuring out whether this is something I truly want to support.  It doesn't help that I'm U.S. based and the strikers aren't--is there even any point to solidarity in cases like this?

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #16 on: July 13, 2018, 09:11:07 AM »
While there are lots of anecdotes, and I'm sure like everywhere individual managers are asshats, a lot of people seem happy to take theses jobs.  ie all the RV people articles about the semi retired traveling and Amazon working half the year.  Both sets of articles cannot be 100% true right?

I would suspect if you retire thinking you'll work part time for amazon, its tough to start a physical warehouse job in your 60s.

GuitarStv

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #17 on: July 13, 2018, 09:16:54 AM »
While there are lots of anecdotes, and I'm sure like everywhere individual managers are asshats, a lot of people seem happy to take theses jobs.  ie all the RV people articles about the semi retired traveling and Amazon working half the year.  Both sets of articles cannot be 100% true right?

I would suspect if you retire thinking you'll work part time for amazon, its tough to start a physical warehouse job in your 60s.

Actually, both sets of articles could be true.  Amazon is a pretty big company.  Maybe some sites are run as egalitarian communes of awesomeness and some like Egyptian pyramid building work crews.  :P
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mm1970

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #18 on: July 13, 2018, 09:54:45 AM »
I'll preface this by saying that I completely support any workforce who wants to organize or form a union--whatever their faults, I feel that unions are a necessary counterbalance to help protect workers against the unfair advantage most businesses have when it comes to determining pay, benefits, etcetera. 

That said, I've been reading up on the Amazon Prime Day strikes.  And my biggest problem with it is that I can't figure out what they're striking for.  Is it better wages and benefits?  Or is it--as many media pieces have been alleging recently--because Amazon warehouses have become the modern-day equivalent of sweat shops?  Because I have to say I'm not seeing it.  Other than a few egregious examples of mismanagement (not putting HVAC into warehouses and allowing people to collapse from heat exhaustion being one example), the majority of the complaints I'm reading seem to be of the 'but the work is physically hard/stressful!' and 'they don't care about me as a person/I report to a computer'.  At which point I'm going ... 'yeah, so?'  How is this different from any number of other unskilled/semiskilled jobs?

So I wanted to put it out there--what do other Mustachians think?  Especially those who are familiar with blue-collar or warehouse work, unlike us office jockeys.   Are Amazon's working conditions truly that bad?  What makes them worse than their competitors?

Quote
While there are lots of anecdotes, and I'm sure like everywhere individual managers are asshats, a lot of people seem happy to take theses jobs.  ie all the RV people articles about the semi retired traveling and Amazon working half the year.  Both sets of articles cannot be 100% true right?

I would suspect if you retire thinking you'll work part time for amazon, its tough to start a physical warehouse job in your 60s.

https://www.amazon.com/Nomadland-Surviving-America-Twenty-First-Century/dp/039324931X

Seems like a good time to put this right here.  I just finished this book.  There's a lot of info about RVers, about Amazon, etc.

The RV'ers: while some portion of "nomads" living in RVs have chosen this life from a point of adventure (discussed in the book), a large percentage of them were essentially forced into it by the economy - by getting laid off, getting divorced, losing a house.  Many of them keep a positive attitude (because saying they "chose" to move into their van in order to survive instead of being forced into it and unable to get out of it, makes a difference.)

A large # of these nomads are essentially forced into these physical labor jobs in their 60's and 70's due to decades of work that paid little, meaning their SS payments are small.  The work in the Amazon warehouses is very hard (from the book), and then these workers move on to beet harvesting in ND, among other things.

It's not uncommon for heat exhaustion, repetitive use injuries, etc.  By keeping the pay low and setting up place for RV'ers, Amazon doesn't need to provide any kind of benefits to, say, younger people whose bodies might be more suited to that type of work.  Their typical employee is likely on Medicare.  They heavily recruit RVers for these jobs.

dividendman

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #19 on: July 13, 2018, 10:14:10 AM »
Have no fear, soon Amazon will have (almost) fully automated warehouses and we won't have to worry about worker conditions.

mm1970

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #20 on: July 13, 2018, 11:17:49 AM »
Have no fear, soon Amazon will have (almost) fully automated warehouses and we won't have to worry about worker conditions.
I'm not too certain about that.  At least the little info in the book about the current automation - was not favorable.  Meaning, the one part of the warehouses that is automated usually malfunctions, and requires the actual workers to repeat the same work over and over.

Telecaster

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #21 on: July 13, 2018, 12:35:06 PM »
I hate to damage my liberal/socialist cred by seemingly being a corporate schill, but you have to keep in mind these are entry level jobs, and the people who take them very few, if any job skills that would allow them to get a better job.   The choice is probably something like working in the FC or flipping burgers.   Or beet harvesting.  Warehouse jobs almost by definition aren't going to be very much fun, and that's true if you are schlepping boxes for UPS, FedEx, Walmart, or anybody else.  We all want stuff fast, and we want it cheap, until that changes nobody is going to make money in the warehouse. 

That said, Amazon FC jobs provide full benefits (medical, dental, sick leave) on day one, plus stock, plus pre-paid tuition, plus a quitting bonus based on the number of peak seasons you worked.  So, if you play your cards right you could start at an entry level job and leave with job training, stock, and a healthy cash bonus.   Could do worse. 

Nicholas Carter

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #22 on: July 13, 2018, 12:57:27 PM »
My big complaint was that the Amazon employee who examined my on-the-clock injury gave me bad advice: I later found out from another employee that that advice was intentionally wrong to encourage me to ruin my legal standing to pursue a workman's compensation case.
The examiner didn't actually have any meaningful credential to risk, so he was fine performing malpractice on the clock. The company denies encouraging any misinformation: mistakes happen, right? I had no standing for a workman's compensation case, because by the time my GP found out that I was injured the window for a case had closed.

monstermonster

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #23 on: July 13, 2018, 04:06:55 PM »
That said, Amazon FC jobs provide full benefits (medical, dental, sick leave) on day one, plus stock, plus pre-paid tuition, plus a quitting bonus based on the number of peak seasons you worked.  So, if you play your cards right you could start at an entry level job and leave with job training, stock, and a healthy cash bonus.   Could do worse.
If you look at the articles, most of their jobs are done through outside staffing firms which provide none of that - the biggest goal of many of the workers is to move from from being a temp worker to an Amazon full-timer, but there's not a lot of guarantees of that.

Also USPS, Fedex, and UPS all provide good benefits for workers (Big Brown is a famous union employer), even though the work is not glamourous.
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Telecaster

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #24 on: July 13, 2018, 05:14:57 PM »

If you look at the articles, most of their jobs are done through outside staffing firms which provide none of that - the biggest goal of many of the workers is to move from from being a temp worker to an Amazon full-timer, but there's not a lot of guarantees of that.

Also USPS, Fedex, and UPS all provide good benefits for workers (Big Brown is a famous union employer), even though the work is not glamourous.

The seasonal workers that work the peak season are temporary.   The rest are full time.


Johnez

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #25 on: July 13, 2018, 06:34:37 PM »
My big complaint was that the Amazon employee who examined my on-the-clock injury gave me bad advice: I later found out from another employee that that advice was intentionally wrong to encourage me to ruin my legal standing to pursue a workman's compensation case.
The examiner didn't actually have any meaningful credential to risk, so he was fine performing malpractice on the clock. The company denies encouraging any misinformation: mistakes happen, right? I had no standing for a workman's compensation case, because by the time my GP found out that I was injured the window for a case had closed.

I suspect this happens more often than you realize. What would this guy have in it whether you file a workman's comp claim or not? My bet is higher ups at Amazon set up the policy to steer you and others away from the claim because it hurts *them*.

Feels like we're taking steps towards regression here with regards to consumer and worker safety and rights. Things we have taken for granted are melting away. EPA, workers rights and safety, CFPB, ACA is going bye be

monstermonster

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Re: Amazon Warehouse Work Conditions
« Reply #26 on: July 13, 2018, 09:18:58 PM »

If you look at the articles, most of their jobs are done through outside staffing firms which provide none of that - the biggest goal of many of the workers is to move from from being a temp worker to an Amazon full-timer, but there's not a lot of guarantees of that.

Also USPS, Fedex, and UPS all provide good benefits for workers (Big Brown is a famous union employer), even though the work is not glamourous.

The seasonal workers that work the peak season are temporary.   The rest are full time.

This article implies not: https://highline.huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/life-and-death-amazon-temp/
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