Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders opened a Senate investigation into Amazon’s warehouse safety practices, the latest in a series of probes he has launched against large corporations in his role as chairman of a committee that oversees health issues. and labor.
Sanders, who has run for president twice and spent a lifetime in politics fighting corporations and paying interest on policies he believes harm the working class, sent a letter to the CEO of Amazon that Andy Jassy on Tuesday accused the e-commerce giant of “damaging health and safety. violations.”
“The company’s pursuit of profit at all costs has led to unsafe physical environments, extreme pressure to work at unsustainable rates, and inadequate medical attention for thousands of Amazon workers every year,” said Sanders, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor. and Pensions Committee, wrote in the letter.
The 81-year-old progressive senator also accused the company, which operates a vast network of warehouses across the country, of failing to adopt “adequate worker protection” due to a corporate culture that treats workers as disposable.
Amazon spokesman Steve Kelly said Tuesday morning the company had received Sanders’ letter and was in the early stages of reviewing it. Later in the day, Kelly said the company strongly disagreed with the senator’s statements.
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“We take the safety and health of our employees very seriously,” Kelly said. “There’s always ways to improve, but we’re proud of the progress we’ve made, which includes a 23% reduction in recordable injuries in our US operations since 2019.”
Kelly also noted that the company has invested more than $1 billion in safety initiatives over the past four years and will continue to invest in this area.
Amazon’s injuries are often higher than its peers in the industry, which critics and labor safety experts blame on the company’s fast-paced warehouses that track productivity and allow customers to be picked up quickly. their packages. Labor groups seized on the issue in an effort to organize workers, some of which bore fruit but did not lead to a major union wave.
In his letter, Sanders pointed to citations Amazon received from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for workplace safety violations, which the company said it is appealing. He also pointed to another investigation by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York into what that office called “potentially deceptive conduct” by Amazon designed to hide injuries from OSHA and others.
According to the company, injuries at its US operations – which include lower back injuries, strains and sprains – fell slightly last year, clocking in at 6.7% per 200,000 hours. work. But these numbers are even higher compared to 2020.
In his letter, Sanders also cited a report from a coalition of three labor unions, which said Amazon’s heavy losses were more than double those of the rest of the warehousing sector last year. . Amazon disputed some of those findings.
“There are always ways for our critics to twist the data to fit their narrative, but the truth is, we’re making progress and our numbers clearly show it,” Kelly said.
The Amazon investigation follows similar investigations from the Senate committee into Starbucks and pharmaceutical giant Moderna. As part of the Amazon investigation, the committee asked Amazon workers to submit stories about their time at the company through a website. The committee says submissions will remain confidential.
Photo: Amazon warehouse worker. (Image provided by Amazon)
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