Amazon’s Problems with Workers Rights

Workers of the delivery van, unite!

Griffin Sonnemann-Creed, Columnist

Freedom. Equality. Justice. These are the words that one must associate with the United States. Built upon the ideas of the European enlightenment, the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights enshrine the values that are integral to all men and women, no matter who they are. But in recent years, many of the rights bestowed upon workers have been rendered null and void. Amazon, a worldwide delivery company based in Seattle, Washington, has recently come under fire due to their exploitation of the workers in their warehouses.

Amazon, a company famed for its benevolent treatment of its consumers, has recently been found in an exposé to be forcing its workers to stick to unrealistic quotas, stay for longer hours than necessary, and to minimize time wasted. According to Business Insider, Amazon employees in the United Kingdom have been forced to even urinate in used bottles, as their supervisors prevent them from going to the bathrooms to minimize time lost. Understandably, this has left many workers disgruntled.

In Spain, the workers have taken it upon themselves to fix their problems. In March 2018, over a thousand workers launched a two day strike and began protesting outside the San Fernando logistic warehouse located on the outskirts of Madrid, stated Reuters. These strikes followed earlier protests by Amazon employees in Italy and Germany in the wake of Black Friday. Amazon employees also had prior strikes in Germany. In 2014, over 2,000 German employees striked against Amazon due to the company’s refusal to negotiate potential pay raises.

Perhaps most shocking of Amazon’s errors is their failure to issue background checks for their security details. In Germany, Amazon’s security in some warehouses have been comprised of neo-Nazis and other right wing extremists. Dressed in black uniforms and boots, drawing inspiration from the clothing of the Schutzstaffel, Amazon’s security guards regularly harassed foreign workers and violated their privacy, going through their property without their permission. While the firm was eventually fired due to a scuffle between the guards and a cameraman, it still left a black spot on Amazon’s history.

Amazon has never had a good track record of treating its employees well. Due to it being a global company, many of the sources of its goods are from developing countries whose workers labor for almost no pay. According to Ethical Consumer, Amazon sources much of its cotton goods from Uzbekistan, a country whose government forcibly mobilized over a million citizens to work in cotton farms. The cotton was also found to have excessive amounts of pesticides and was genetically modified.

All things considered, just one incident likely won’t force Amazon to change their workplace policies. But if enough people push back, maybe that will force them to do something for their employees.