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Safety Experts Say Amazon Workers Need a Union

A new safety and health report found that the injury rate at Amazon’s Staten Island 'fulfillment center' is three times the national average.

by Lauren Kaori Gurley
Oct 17 2019, 10:27pm

JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

One of Amazon’s most scrutinized warehouses is once again getting heat for its dangerous working conditions. A report from the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) published Wednesday described a “production-obsessed culture” at Amazon’s Staten Island “fulfillment center,” and found that the injury rate at the 2,000-worker warehouse is nearly three times the national average for warehouse workers.

The report’s authors say the best way to reduce the injury rate would be for the online retail giant to take a neutral stance on unionization at the Staten Island warehouse, which opened in September 2018. “Amazon is well known for its opposition to its employees’ efforts to unionize, but that may well be one of the key contributors to the improvement of health and safety among Amazon’s employees,” the authors of the report write. “Amazon should not oppose unionization for their workers, but rather should remain neutral to allow the workers to make this decision for themselves.”

For the report, researchers interviewed 145 workers from the Staten Island Amazon fulfillment center about health and safety in the facility, and the psychological and economic stress of their jobs. Eight in ten workers said that they had been pressured to work harder or faster, and over two-thirds said they experienced physical pain at work. One worker said that the warehouse imposes production quotas of roughly 2,000 items on a ten hour shift that breaks down to four a minute. “You’re almost running for the entire ten hours,” the worker told NYCOSH.

The report found that injury rates at the Amazon Staten Island distribution center are nearly 3 times the national rate for warehouse workers. Eighteen percent of workers said they’ve been injured on the job. The majority of those injuries were the result of getting caught in, hit by, or otherwise injured by machinery. The second highest cause of injury were cuts, lacerations, and other wounds.

In response to the report, an Amazon spokesperson said, "This report includes a biased and unreliable survey which supposedly surveyed less than 3% of our Staten Island workforce. It is 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."

In December, only three months after the Staten Island facility opened, Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island announced their intention to unionize to address safety concerns and unreasonable quotas.

Earlier this year, Rashad Long, a worker from the Staten Island fulfillment center, filed a federal complaint against Amazon with the National Labor Review Board (NLRB), alleging he had been fired for union organizing and advocating for safer working conditions.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

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