US senator Bernie Sanders has publicly called out Amazon for its working conditions after numerous employees have threatened to commit suicide in the e-commerce giant's warehouses
Big businesses are role models for startups and scaleups given the success they witness. Fittingly, trillion-dollar company Amazon has motivated entrepreneurs worldwide to launch e-commerce sites. However, it wasn’t the best example for treating employees well. And US senator Bernie Sanders has once again criticised its working conditions.
The politician has indeed had previous clashes with Amazon over working conditions, one of which saw the company actually respond to the politician in a blog post in August 2018 to burst his claims. “We have been in regular contact with his office and have offered several opportunities for Senator Sanders and his team to tour one of our fulfillment centers (FCs),” said the firm. “To date he has still not seen an FC for himself. Instead, Senator Sanders continues to spread misleading statements about pay and benefits.”
But on Monday March 11, Sanders took to Twitter to respond to an article by The Daily Beast which reported calls to 911 made from Amazon warehouses. Workers were experiencing mental health crises including self-harm and threatening suicide as a result of intense pressure and isolation. Sanders tweeted: “Amazon must recognize that workers' rights don't stop at the minimum wage. Amazon must significantly improve working conditions at its warehouses and respect the constitutional right of its employees to form a union and bargain collectively for a better life.”
While Amazon did increase its minimum wage of employees in the US and UK in 2018, their working conditions leave much to be desired. In February 2019, Business Insider reported conditions within Amazon warehouses and found that US workers had clocked up 60-hour weeks during peak times. They were even expected to attend work in severe snowstorms, risking their lives. And in the UK, employees were working 50-hour weeks during peak times, even though the law states staff shouldn’t be working over 48 hours unless they agree to it in writing. Consequentially, the company was sued in June 2018 for making staff work in bad conditions.
In a statement made to Business Insider, an Amazon spokeswoman said: "We are proud of the great working conditions, wages and benefits, and career opportunities we provide for our associates all year round. Everyone is encouraged to come and see for themselves what it's like to work in an Amazon fulfilment centre.”
While increasing minimum wage is a good start, focusing on the working environment is essential to improving mental health. And it seems the business still has a long way to go based on the alarming stream of emergency phone calls that have taken place.