Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Amazon's Warehouse of Sadness and Horribleness

Have you read the story about the Amazon warehouse outside Allentown? You should! It's not… good. In short, Amazon largely staffs that warehouse with temporary workers through an agency, dangling the prospect of being promoted to full-time employee. Then it parks ambulances outside for when they pass out from heat exhaustion. Then, when they don't make quota, what with all the passing out, they're often dismissed. (Yes, to be fair, some are promoted, and some do fine.) Hold on to your Kindles!

Here are the three most blood-boiling parts. (Your blood-boiling mileage may vary; it's a very long story and there's lots in it!

One hot day in June, [44-year-old Karen] Salasky said, she wasn't feeling well. Her fingers tingled and her body felt numb. She went to the restroom. An ISS manager asked if she was OK, and she said no. She was taken by wheelchair to an air-conditioned room, where paramedics examined her while managers asked questions and took notes.

"I was really upset and I said, 'All you people care about is the rates, not the well-being of the people,'" she said. "I've never worked for an employer that had paramedics waiting outside for people to drop because of the extreme heat."

Supervisors told Salasky to go home and rest. She reported to an ISS office the next day to drop off medical paperwork, and she was asked to sign papers acknowledging she got irate and used a curse word on the day she suffered from the heat. She refused to sign the papers because she said she didn't curse. A few days later, she called ISS and found out her assignment had been terminated.

And this:

One former temporary warehouse employee said he worked seven months before he was terminated for not working fast enough. In his 50s, he worked 10 hours a day, four days a week as a picker, plucking items from bins and delivering them to packers who put them in boxes for shipment. He would walk 13 to 15 miles daily, he estimated, and was among the oldest pickers…. He said he was expected to pick 1,200 items in a 10-hour shift, or one item every 30 seconds…. "The worst part was getting on my hands and knees 250 to 300 times a day," he said.

But the real winner is, stealthily, THIS.

On June 13, OSHA received a letter from Allen Forney, Amazon's site safety manager. "On June 3, 2011, the Lehigh Valley area experienced unusual, extremely high temperatures which caused the heat index inside our building to reach a temperature above 95 degrees in a few areas of the building," Forney wrote. "As a result of these high temperatures, 15 out of 1,600 employees experienced heat-related symptoms. Six of these employees were treated at a local hospital ER for non-work related medical conditions triggered by the heat…."

Oh, okay, those were NON-work related medical conditions simply "triggered" by heat exhaustion and passing out at work and stuff. DUDE? Dude. Duuuude.

Also the CEO of the temp staffing agency has a blog called "HR Ninja," which is grounds for some kind of punishment.

34 Comments / Post A Comment

keisertroll (#1,117)

Ninja, please.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

Hedge fund alumnus Bezos for Man of the Year.

brent_cox (#40)

Go Morning Call.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

Yeah that was good work.

My first thought was, See? So support your independent bookstore, fools!

Second thought: Wonder how hot Martha Ingram makes it for her people in the big Ingram book distribution warehouses?

brent_cox (#40)

@Tulletilsynet they are not that big a paper, and usually a pretty quick read, if you know what I mean. So just to publish a feature with that many words, let alone assign a reporter to the story, is big good news.

runsinbackground (#10,344)

@Tulletilsynet To clarify: if I order something through Amazon, but I don't order anything that's Fulfillment By Amazon, then Mom and Pop (or Bay Area Comix or whatever) are shipping it themselves and paying a fee to Amazon for the listing, right? That's what I always do, because the FBA stuff tends to be weirdly more expensive even with the free shipping, or else it's conspicuously more roughly used.

Dave Bry (#422)

Wait a minute. DID Karen Salesky use a curse word the day she suffered from heat exhaustion at her place of employment or DID SHE NOT???

@Dave Bry: She's striking a very sassy pose in that picture. In my computer simulation she tells the ISS manager "It's frikkin hot in here."

KenWheaton (#401)

Quick fix: DON'T have paramedics waiting outside. Then see how much they have to complain about. Ingrates. The machines wouldn't complain like this. And they wouldn't curse either.

Vulpes (#946)

Great, now I have to feel guilty about my Amazon purchases. THANKS A LOT, HEAT-STROKED WORKERS!

Also, "HR PUFNSTUF MORE LIKE IT" wins tag of the day!

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

We are going to turn into China, not by invasion of any army or anything, but because that's what free-market capitalism demands (and we obey it like sheep).

deepomega (#1,720)

@Niko Bellic Or China's gonna turn into us. They're already moving their factories farther and farther into central China because the "coastal elites" expect too much pay.

People are surprised that there are high heat indexes in Amazon warehouses?


Dave Bry (#422)

Other temporary workers complained of being attacked by an 18-foot anaconda, and the hazards of quicksand and how the piranha in the water coolers can strip a full-grown cow to its bones in less than a minute. But, you know, these are all "non-work-related" medical conditions.

whizz_dumb (#10,650)

@Dave Bry I heard there's a parasite that will swim up your urethra and kill you from the inside if you swim in the warehouse waters.

BirdNerd (#4,196)

Always wondered why the local Amazon warehouse is ALWAYS hiring. Turnover (see: death by heat exhaustion) is rather high in this industry.

laurel (#4,035)

C'mon workers, getting on your hands and knees 300 times a day is good for you! Think of it as Bikram quota.

keisertroll (#1,117)

People who liked this article also liked: NORMA RAE, THE JUNGLE, EL NORTE

deepomega (#1,720)

Can't wait till we have heat exhaustion-proof robots doing this shit. What could go wrong!

1) It's a heat wave and she's really upset – I'd be surprised if she didn't cuss. for real.

2) Have you worked in a warehouse? I have. Luckily I mostly drove a forklift way back when but pickers have an intensely laborious shift. With the ADA act I don't see why the guy couldn't ask for a reasonable accommodation from the company or ISS if the he had medical backing. Maybe train to a different area? I don't know if it was the case with that guy but a lot of people fail to speak up until it's time to complain about the past.

3) From what I read Amazon was obviously ill prepared for the kind of heat we got this early summer. I personally think they should have shut down on days where the heat was so fierce but Amazon is a business and 'The show must go on' or they run the risk of major loss which could equate to lost local jobs as well. So what did they do? They gave employees the option of committing to their shifts or not (at will employment). Many workers failed to drink water. Random fact many may not know: Pepsi, Coke, Mountain Dew though tasty will not quench your thirst OR replenish your body. At least they had an ambulance and that ISS manager asked if she was ok. That's more than many companies who don't care AT ALL. Have they had any issues past their stuff in early June – late July that they didn't resolve?

Medical conditions triggered by the heat exhaustion caused by work conditions at Amazon. If that's the case – that's straight Amazon settlement money, no? – hope the medical conditions weren't too serious.

"Pepsi, Coke, Mountain Dew though tasty will not quench your thirst OR replenish your body."

A real Randian would charge for that advice.

cherrispryte (#444)

Can I ask a potentially ignorant question?

Why aren't the warehouses air-conditioned?

latenac (#44,473)

@cherrispryte I'm assuming b/c it's too expensive. How else are they going to be able to offer free shipping? However, this can't be an isolated problem there must be other warehouses that have dealt with this and not had to keep paramedics waiting outside. My father works in a steel mill with greater heat than this yet people aren't regularly being taken to the hospital during the summer.

Joey Camire (#6,325)

@cherrispryte Was wondering the same thing.

deepomega (#1,720)

@cherrispryte I think the problem was the heat wave outpacing the AC.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

If Amazon learned anything from the Netflix fiasco, they will not make the mistake of raising their shipping prices in order to prevent people from dropping dead in their warehouses. Let the fuckers die – it's what we as consumers demand!

@Niko Bellic “If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

NFK (#8,747)

Everyone keeps saying we're living in the future.

All these shiny websites, bringing you cheap consumer goods at the click of a mouse, powered by Dickensian sweatshops.

This future sucks.

pepper (#676)

So that's what they mean by Kindle Edition.

Phoenix Woman (#7,467)

Amazon may seem all touchy-feely on the outside, but these are the same jerks who donate tens of thousands a year to ALEC: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Amazon#Support_for_the_American_Legislative_Exchange_Council

Emile (#232,364)


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