From warehouses to delivery drivers, Amazon has come under fire for putting workers under severe, sometimes unsafe quotas and time constraints. One employee compares an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island to state prison. Others quit after 3 days of being treated “like a robot,” and others still are fired after missing their quotas and receiving write-ups from an algorithm.
Amazon drivers cannot even afford bathroom breaks, and the company faced public scrutiny after a British journalist documented employees peeing in bottles to avoid finding or traveling to a toilet, time that would interfere with meeting their oppressive quotas.
A Symbol of Oppression
As the journalist explains to CBS News:
“It's become an iconic image because we're talking about the wealthiest multinational in the world headed up by the richest man in the world, and yet you have a workforce which, from my own experience, was afraid to take bathroom breaks.”
Even in Amazon fulfillment centers, which the company argues has “dozens of restrooms,” employees are crunched for time and only receive 15-minute breaks that barely allow them to traverse the facility. If workers exceed their 15-minute limit, they will be written up and eventually fired. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a warehouse assistant manager was even fired for organizing a walkout over a lack of COVID-19 precautions.
Amazon delivery drivers have talked about and documented the need to pee in bottles to avoid getting written up or fired. Often, a single driver must deliver 300 packages within 10 hours, which leaves little time for a proper bathroom break – and creates unsafe working conditions.
Unsafe working conditions are illegal, as is firing an employee for union activity or punishing an employee for speaking up about their concerns. Unfortunately, these are the patterns reports are revealing about Amazon.
Amazon argues that no one would work at the company if conditions were as bad as reports suggest, but this kind of rhetoric dismisses and demeans workers who need to pay their bills and feed their families. Especially during the COVID-19 crisis, many people could not afford to quit working at Amazon or find another job. Employees may pee in bottles or put their health and safety at risk because getting fired could be the difference between keeping their homes and feeding their children.
As a “solution” to the concerns, Amazon has bragged about its $15 per hour minimum wage and benefits – and added that workers can now be fired for “public urination.”
Have You Been Wrongfully Terminated?
If you are concerned about working conditions, you have every right to bring your concerns to your supervisor’s attention. Document or record all communication, and if you get fired for discussing safety or health, share your records with an employment attorney.