Hell Freezes Over: Amazon.com’s PA Sweatshop Workers Endured Extreme Cold During Late Night Evacuations

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Thank you, Spencer Soper, for staying on Amazon.  An excerpt from yet another Amazon expose filed by Soper at The Morning Call:

On Nov. 27, someone activated the fire alarm in the Amazon warehouse at 3:26 a.m., forcing an evacuation, according to court documents. Amazon maintains the evacuation lasted approximately one hour and 45 minutes. The fire department responded and no fire was discovered.

As is routine in most emergency evacuations, workers were not permitted to get their coats when alarms sounded unless they happened to have them within reach. Many warehouse workers don’t have a regular work station and store their coats in a break room, so they had to leave in what they were wearing. Because of the physical nature of their jobs and warm temperatures in the warehouse, many employees wear only T-shirts and jeans or shorts while working, several employees said.

Multiple warehouse workers suffered injuries as a result of cold exposure that night and were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, according to Amazon’s account filed in response to Grady’s lawsuit. Those employees returned to work the next day, Amazon said in court records.

A warehouse worker complained to OSHA about workers being exposed to cold during a fire alarm evacuation that night, according to an OSHA file of the incident.

“There were people passing out, having asthma attacks and I do believe a man had a seizure,” said the worker, whose name was redacted in OSHA records.

The same worker and a second one complained about another fire alarm evacuation Dec. 4 that lasted roughly two hours.

“There were pregnant women, men and women in T-shirts and shorts, some with sleeveless shirts and shorts,” one complaint states. “People were passing out and feeling ill left and right. … I am absolutely disgusted with this company’s practices and I do believe OSHA should visit this building and give them some sort of coaching on how to better handle the situation before there are more people suffering from hypothermia.”

I’ve been boycotting Amazon since Soper’s first investigation in September.  I tend to believe workers claiming injury at the hands of giant, careless corporations.  I tend to believe that bureaus like OSHA are well-intentioned and ineffectual.  As a progressive, I tend to distrust the intentions of big business and the deliverability of meaningful correctives by many well-meaning (and many ass-covering) agents of our government.  I have some progressive friends who need to believe at an ontological level that if OSHA doesn’t find anything at Amazon, everything must be fine.  I get all the reasons for that. I get why so many progressives still find it hard to admit Big Labor’s own part in undoing the early advances of the unions.  But being politically honest and being truly progressive means moving past that and realizing the degree to which the agencies we’ve authorized to protect us from unchecked greed have failed in profound and simple ways.

Amazon, you can bet that this story isn’t over.  Plaudits, loud, loud plaudits to you, Spencer Soper, for staying on this.

2 thoughts on “Hell Freezes Over: Amazon.com’s PA Sweatshop Workers Endured Extreme Cold During Late Night Evacuations

  1. I am with you 100% on being outraged by the earlier story about day-to-day conditions in the warehouse. But what exactly are you proposing that Amazon should have done in this case? Allow workers to risk their lives searching a potentially burning building for their coats? Have a heated temporary shelter on hand at all times in case there is a fire or report of a fire?

    I am sure they could have handled the situation better by transporting workers to another location, but unless I see evidence of callousness, I am willing to give the company the benefit of the doubt that when you are trying to make sure everyone is accounted for and not dying of smoke inhalation, getting people out of the cold is a distant second priority.

    Edit: Other sections of the article are much more damning than what was excerpted here, including specific allegations that after a roll call employees were not permitted to enter their vehicles.

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