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Former Amazon Employees Helped Make a Hotline to Report Unsafe Working Conditions

A new project wants to help Amazon workers report unsafe working conditions.

by Edward Ongweso Jr
Sep 3 2019, 4:26pm

At this point, Amazon’s poor labor conditions are well-documented. Coverage has been such a nightmare for Amazon that last year it rolled out a Twitter program featuring warehouse workers tweeting the joys of working for Amazon. In an effort to combat Amazon’s power, the Free and Fair Markets Initiative—a nonprofit watchdog–has teamed up with former Amazon workers to create a hotline for reporting unsafe working conditions.

“Amazon grinds its workers until they have nothing left to give. The company has shown time and time again a blatant disregard for the safety and well-being of its workers, and it’s time someone did something about it,” the group’s chief spokesperson, Robert B. Engel, said in a statement.

Since its founding last year, the group has been focused on "scrutinizing Amazon's harmful practices," especially as the company plans new expansions without adequately addressing its workplace conditions.

For the past two years, Amazon has landed on the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health's "Dirty Dozen" list meant to draw attention to companies that regularly put employees and communities at risk. In their most recent report, the organization points out that despite Amazon's "vast resources, there is little evidence the company has made a significant effort to address worker complaints about stress, overwork and other conditions which can lead to illness, injuries and even fatalities." Between October 2013 and 2018, the Daily Beast found that emergency responders arrived at Amazon warehouses "at least 189 times for suicide attempts, suicidal thoughts, and other mental-health episodes."

The hotline not only allows a worker to work around a fear of retribution or inadequate care, but also gives instructions and resources for taking their complaint even further by filing with OSHA either online, physically, or over the phone.

“When you look at most admired employers, there’s a reason Amazon is never named—just look at the burnout rate,” a former Hebron, Kentucky warehouse worker who asked to remain anonymous because they signed a non-disclosure agreement and is helping on the hotline told Motherboard. “People need to be aware of what’s going on inside these warehouses. You’re going to need a lot more than just one phone line to hear all these complaints from the workers.”

“We work hard to provide a safe, quality work environment for our associates, who are encouraged to provide feedback through public and private channels and are always welcome to talk to leaders at their site — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Amazon said in a statement. “All of this is on top of our industry-leading $15 minimum wage and comprehensive benefits starting on day one—we encourage anyone to compare our safety record, employer practices, and work conditions with any major employer or retailer.”

This article has been updated with comment from Amazon.