Amid Open the Economy Protests, Amazon’s Treatment of Warehouse Workers Under Fire
There have recently been dozens of protests by Americans to rush going back to work vs. the pandemic. While healthcare workers protest for more PPE, people are protesting the Great Shutdown, and not lost in all the headlines, Amazon workers are protesting their treatment in warehouses.
Amazon is that company that cannot keep up with the demand for essential and non-essential E-commerce supplies. Amazon that company, who is now deploying thermal cameras at warehouses to scan for fevers faster. Amazon has a history of dangerous surveillance and unfair treatment of warehouse workers, that push workers harder and faster due to automation.
Amazon has fired protesters and all those who have complained about warehouse conditions. Amazon reportedly tried to shut down a virtual event for workers to speak out about the company’s coronavirus response by deleting employees’ calendar invites. For such a monopoly, this is dangerous behavior. Workers’ rights should always come first.
While Amazon warehouses may not be the safest places to work, protests against stay-at-home orders organized by small-government groups and Trump supporters are not taking the bigger public health situation fully into account. Social cohesion between public safety and economic well-being are coming head to head, and it’s just the first wave of the pandemic.
As cases continue to rise, several states have extended stay-at-home measures and social distancing orders into May. While Amazon is hiring more warehouse workers to cope with the extraordinary demand, Amazon has ruthlessly fired critics of warehouse conditions.
This is actually back-firing creating movements inside Amazon that will push back. It’s a PR disaster. Employees in BigTech companies seem to be the last resort of justice in these corporate behmoths where ethics often lags profit-driven machinery.
The more powerful Amazon becomes, the less it appears to be listening to its own workers.
A group of Amazon employees are attempting to stage a ‘sickout’ in protest of the company’s treatment of workers amidst the coronavirus. The protest, which is being organised online by the group, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ), urges employees to call in sick on the 24 April.
Protesting is great, but these are strange times when social distancing is destroying the lives of many Americans. However the alternative of additional waves of the pandemic is equally destructive and could lead back to social distancing orders by medical experts.
Amazon is trying to adapt to the times but making a few vital mistakes. While Amazon grapples with its own workers’ movement, protesters in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Michigan, Minnesota, Idaho and California gathered in cities and outside their state legislatures to demand the reopening of the economy. However for many areas, an April re-opening is far too soon as Covid-19 cases are likely far higher than the lack of testing shows.
While Trump is using the protesters to his political benefit, while small businesses are dying, Amazon is stronger than ever. Amazon is disrupting small businesses in the worst-case scenario for indie retail, restaurants and local jobs not named Walmart, Amazon or other huge employers that are benefiting from the outrageous employment situation.
Sadly I think we can expect more protests, looting, and food lines – since the pandemic will have multiple waves and the U.S’s extraordinary lack of testing and preparedness which included a contamination in the CDC, where America failed in testing capabilities, contract tracing and very significantly in even anticipating the widespread scale of the public health danger.
Amazon as an employer has attempted to squash uprisings and worker rebellions since warehouse workers are the bottom pawns of a sprawling corporate empire. Amazon.com Inc has started to use thermal cameras at its warehouses to speed up screening for feverish workers who could be infected with the coronavirus. That’s not unlike the surveillance mechanisms implemented in China.
Amazon attempted to shut down a virtual event where workers spoke out about warehouse conditions by deleting employees’ calendar invites to the event, according to The Seattle Times. During the Great Shutdown, violating the freedom of speech of your employees is probably not something you want to do.
Amazon last week (Friday) fired two user experience designers, Maren Costa and Emily Cunningham, for what it called repeated violations of internal policies, without specifying which ones. In recent years Google, Amazon and Facebook have been increasingly hostile against their own employees and it’s at a time when they battle Tech giants in China for global domination.
Amazon’s internal political atmosphere appears to be heading in the wolfish vector that Google’s divided internal culture has become.
At the Last Futurist we’re a fan of Amazon’s innovation, but this is not acceptable. Amazon has now fired five workers since the pandemic began who were involved in protests or criticized the company’s treatment of workers.
Walmart is learning from Amazon’s failures. Amazon hasn’t done enough to protect them from COVID-19, with people testing positive for the disease in at least 74 of the company’s facilities. Cases of the virus have been reported among staff at more than 50 of Amazon’s U.S. warehouses, according to Reuters.
Amazon set up the hardware for the thermal cameras in at least six warehouses outside Los Angeles and Seattle, where the company is based, according to employees and posts on social media. So who are the martyrs of Amazon? Christian Smalls, Bashir Mohamed, Maren Costa and Emily Cunningham, among so many others. There’s a lesson here for Amazon, but it might take further uprisings for them to learn it.