Following ‘Prime Days,’ Massachusetts Lawmakers Question Amazon About High Rate of Serious Injuries Among Warehouse Workers

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The following is a media release from Sen. Ed Markey and Sen Elizabeth Warren’s offices. Both were elected by voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to serve the state in Washington DC in the US Senate. Both are Democrats.

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WASHINGTON DC – United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy (D-MA-04) expressed concern that, as evidence mounts of unsafe working conditions for Amazon warehouse workers, the company continues to respond by rolling out PR campaigns and misrepresenting workers’ injury risk to Congress and the public rather than implementing meaningful changes that protect workers.

The lawmakers questioned whether Amazon made any changes to reduce the speed at which workers were forced to work for Amazon Prime Days on October 13-14, which a new report finds are, “the year’s most dangerous week for injuries at Amazon fulfillment centers.”

In late 2019, the lawmakers sent a letter to Amazon expressing concern about a Reveal News report that found the serious injury rate at Amazon facilities was more than double the industry average; and that the rate at the Fall River, facility was nearly three times the industry average. Amazon’s response to the lawmakers dissembled about and dismissed these findings. But newly released information from Reveal News shows that Amazon’s response to that letter contained what appeared to be misleading statements about Amazon’s worker injury record and safety practices, and suggests that Amazon is not seriously addressing high injury rates at the Fall River and other fulfillment centers. 

The report from Reveal News and The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) obtained and analyzed internal Amazon injury data and found, “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.”

The lawmakers expressed concern that Amazon has seemingly refused to consider reducing the speed at which Amazon workers must work or face disciplinary action – known as “rate” or “target performance expectations.”

“In response to multiple questions we asked your company about how worker safety is considered in developing or revising performance target expectations, you discussed training workers to keep up and assessing incidents once they happen, but provided no indication that you had assessed whether the rate expectations themselves are putting workers at risk,” the lawmakers wrote. “In fact, based on what you’ve shared with our offices, target performance expectations appear to have no basis in individual worker safety.”

The lawmakers also raised concerns that, contrary to what Amazon told their offices, records indicate that Amazon aggressively avoids reporting injuries to federal authorities; that Amazon does not implement its safety pilot programs during Prime Days; and that Amazon has made multiple public statements that the use of robotics in warehouses is safe, despite evidence that robotics appears to be associated with a higher injury rate for workers. 

 

“Every person who works at Amazon deserves to be safe, and no worker’s safety should be treated as expendable or secondary to bolstering the company’s bottom line,” the lawmakers concluded. “Your misleading responses and public misrepresentations about Amazon’s safety record raise concerns about your commitment to the safety of Amazon workers, and to creating a workplace that prioritizes and values worker safety.

The lawmakers asked a series of questions, including whether Amazon reduced the speed at which warehouse workers were forced to work during Prime Days this year, and why Amazon has not evaluated the safety consequences of its target performance targets.

The lawmakers requested answers to their questions no later than October 28, 2020.

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