Amazon’s Mistreatment of Workers Must End



Leonhard Lenz

Protestors in Berlin hold a demonstration against Amazon's tax policy and treatment of workers on Nov. 24, 2017. Multiple protests have been held by Amazon employees all over the world against the company.

By Shawkin Kabir, WESTWOOD HIGH SCHOOL - Austin

Starting from the first development of modern technology, there have constantly been new products created to make the essential aspects of our lives easier. Gift buying or purchasing a treat for yourself is a staple of many people’s lives and has become an even faster process because of an intensifying technological and business development: online shopping. The titan of this industry is Amazon, which uses efficiency to be an attractive option for consumers. After all, who can say no to same-day or two-day shipping?

However, a dark truth lies underneath the gift-wrapping of Amazon’s appeal. Amazon’s large promises of instant satisfaction come at a price. Employees at Amazon warehouses are forced to fulfill extreme demands under constant surveillance. The stressful environment is enabled through systems such as scanners that assign tasks at a rapid pace while counting down. This also alerts managers about how much time spent by a worker is considered off-task. In some warehouses, workers reportedly had only 18 minutes a shift for non-work-related activities, including restroom breaks. Some workers have had to resort to peeing in bottles or not using the restroom at all to handle their workload. Numerous other horror stories of Amazon warehouses have been told by employees.

In addition to overworking, several injuries have resulted from the terrible working conditions at Amazon. In fact, Amazon workers are reportedly twice as likely to be injured as those in other warehouse jobs. There have been many accounts of accidents causing grave injury or death, such as employees being crushed by forklifts. Injured workers had to miss an average of five and a half weeks to recover in 2018. Many employees have also detailed the lack of leniency employers give when it comes to taking days off for illness or even pregnancy. Other reports even recount being punished for sustaining injuries. The time employees have to fulfill orders is so short that they suffer extreme risks and often get hurt. Unfortunately, these workers have no option but to work and fulfill their high demands, even if that means sacrificing their health. The danger has escalated to the point that Amazon was branded one of the most dangerous places to work last year.

In addition, many workers have reported the extreme damage working at Amazon has done to their mental health. A large cause of this is the high-pressure aspect of the job that leaves workers feeling like they are robots. Employees have a low sense of job security, with constant observation for what are seen as fireable offenses, and managers are encouraged to keep a lookout for people to fire for a faster work system. Workers are often not even allowed to converse with each other during their shifts. An extremely stressful work environment like this is detrimental to workers’ mental health.

Amazon employees are overworked in inhumane circumstances. We cannot ignore the reality of how many are suffering because of Amazon’s ruthlessness. Sure, getting that new candle on the same day you purchased it feels great, but behind the scenes, the wellbeing of the person fulfilling your order may be at risk.

Amazon’s response to accusations regarding their terrible environment has been to just keep denying these accounts and claiming that nothing is wrong with their methods. Though several employees have unionized against the brutality of working at Amazon, the company has actively pushed back against this motion, providing managers with training videos on recognizing and dealing with union activity, in addition to public bashing of unions. To ignore so much evidence about the workers’ hardships is sickening. Dismissing the mental and physical harms their work culture has brought upon its workers shows that the company does not even see its workers as human, only tools to increase profits. 

The horrible working conditions at Amazon cannot be ignored. The accounts of those suffering cannot be brushed aside. Though Amazon is an enormous company, there are still ways we can take action. Recognizing the problem and using our resources to spread the word can help keep the company accountable and inform others. Along with raising awareness, we can boycott shipping from Amazon or at the very least limit what we get from the company. Voting for government officials who will fight against Amazon and its power also helps. Most importantly, Amazon must listen to the protests being held around the country against them and acknowledge their issues instead of dismissing or excusing them. They must work with their employees to right the wrongs that they have perpetuated. The fast development of the online shopping industry is exciting, but it should not come at the cost of the workers.

This story was originally published on Westwood Horizon on January 9, 2020.