Is anyone surprised that Amazon has been systematically deceiving its workers about safety?
If you are surprised, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.
This is a company that prides itself on abusing its workers at all levels, and their lies, both to regulators and their employees, are a core part of company culture:
On Cyber Monday 2014, Amazon operations chief Dave Clark proudly unveiled the company’s new warehouse of the future in Tracy, California. Behind him, tall yellow racks packed with vitamins, toy rockets and paintball gear zipped across the floor, lugged by the powerful, squat orange robots that would help catapult the company toward world domination. In a checked shirt and with neatly parted hair, Clark looked more the part of a high school teacher than a corporate executive, as he cheerfully called himself “head elf of Santa’s workshop around the world.”
The following July, Amazon rolled out another innovation: Prime Day. The holiday-shopping season was already an intense pressure cooker of warehouse activity known as “peak” inside Amazon. Now the company had just manufactured a second peak in the middle of the year: a brand-new holiday that would become pivotal to the company’s growth.
In fact, as senators have fired off letters to the company and workers have led walkouts over health and safety, Amazon has engaged in an unapologetic public relations campaign. Robots, Amazon insists, are good for workers. “They make the job safer,” Jeff Wilke, one of two CEOs under Bezos, told PBS FRONTLINE last September. And Prime Day and the holiday rush are so well orchestrated, Amazon has claimed, that injury rates stay flat or even go down during these buying frenzies. Thanks to “diligent record-keeping,” Amazon told Business Insider, “we know for a fact that recordable incidents do not increase during peak.”
But a new cache of company records obtained by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting – including internal safety reports and weekly injury numbers from its nationwide network of fulfillment centers – shows that company officials have profoundly misled the public and lawmakers about its record on worker safety. They reveal a mounting injury crisis at Amazon warehouses, one that is especially acute at robotic facilities and during Prime week and the holiday peak – and one that Amazon has gone to great lengths to conceal. With weekly data from 2016 through 2019 from more than 150 Amazon warehouses, the records definitively expose the brutal cost to workers of Amazon’s vast shipping empire – and the bald misrepresentations the company has deployed to hide its growing safety crisis.
Amazon often points to the tens of millions of dollars it has invested to enhance safety practices. Yet Amazon’s injury rates have gone up each of the past four years, the internal data shows. In 2019, Amazon fulfillment centers recorded 14,000 serious injuries – those requiring days off or job restrictions. The overall rate of 7.7 serious injuries per 100 employees was 33% higher than in 2016 and nearly double the most recent industry standard.
And for years, the internal data show, injury rates have spiked during the weeks of Prime Day and Cyber Monday, contrary to Amazon’s public claims. Those two weeks had the highest rate of serious injuries for all of 2019.
Monthly bulletins from Amazon’s environment, health and safety team show that the famously data-obsessed company is well aware of its safety problems. Each month, company officials sent out detailed updates – marked “Privileged & Confidential” – to warehouse safety managers across the country with data, charts and FAQs. They set safety goals and monitor progress closely. But the internal documents show that the company has failed to hit these targets. In 2018, Amazon aimed to lower its injury rate by 20%. Instead, injury rates went up. The next year, the goal was more modest: a 5% decrease. But the rate rose again.
Yet her email didn’t say how the company justifies its claim that these initiatives are working, while injury rates have continued, year after year, to rise.
Notwithstanding is protestations, Amazon does not care about its workers.
Even now that they are effectively a monopoly, they continue to build an empire on the blood of their employees.
They just don’t care.