‘I’m still in pain’: Amazon employees say climate of fear has led to high injury rates | Amazon
In May, Chloe Roberson of Chattanooga, Tennessee injured her knee while working at Amazon and has been out of work ever since, as she fought with the company for workers ‘compensation and workers’ compensation. paid medical leave.
Roberson, 21, chose to go to the emergency room rather than Amazon’s on-site medical clinic, Amcare, and was referred to a sports doctor who diagnosed her with a dislocated kneecap (kneecap). Her initial recovery was 10 weeks of physical therapy followed by a steroid injection, but then she had to undergo surgery on October 28 to repair her knee.
“While all of this was going on, I had to fight Amazon for free time and money,” Roberson said. “They refused workers compensation because I had a dislocated kneecap when I was 14 years old. I’m 21 now, so I don’t see how that relates.
Roberson and his wife struggled to cover their bills while recovering from his injury and battling Amazon. “I haven’t had a single day that I’m not in an absolute mess because of the stress Amazon continues to put on me,” Roberson added.
Reports of high injury rates and high turnover rates at Amazon warehouses in the United States due to immense pressures on productivity and quota rates on workers have been documented by numerous media and organizations in recent years and confirmed by OSHA journals. Amazon shareholders recently requested an independent security audit of the company.
A May 2021 report released by the Center for Strategic Organization found that Amazon’s injury rates were double the injury rate in the warehousing industry and 80% higher than the industry average for serious injuries in 2020.
Jerald Crowley worked at an Amazon fulfillment center in Greenville, SC for six months before resigning on November 3 due to a wrist injury he sustained at work because he is deaf and could not afford to lose the use of her hand to communicate in sign language with her children.
His rate for stacking boxes on pallets was 40 boxes an hour, and he cited that rate as the reason for his injury.
“I had a severe sprain on my right wrist when I was trying to bring a box to the back of the pallet,” Crowley said. “Their safety rules are I’m supposed to report it and they’ll bring it down, but their rate is 40 boxes per hour.” I was trying to get credit for the box – if I didn’t they could let me go just because I didn’t respect the tariffs so security was basically out the window when they chose the tariffs instead that security.
On January 1, 2021, Washington state increased workers’ compensation premiums for Amazon due to higher injury rates at Amazon warehouses compared to other warehouses in the state.
In December 2021, the National Employment Law Project released a report on injury rates at Amazon’s six warehouses in Minnesota, revealing that these facilities have injury rates twice as high as the rates at other warehouses in the U.S. State and more than four times the average of all industries. in the state.
An Amazon spokesperson said in response to the report, “While we know we are not perfect, this report ignores the outlook of the vast majority of our employees in Minnesota, who tell us they are proud of. work at Amazon and feel supported. in their roles.
Mustafa Omar started working at Amazon in 2016, but left in 2017 and returned in 2018, and has been working there for three years. It picks up and loads items weighing up to 80 pounds, typically working at six or seven different stations. He suffered from back pain from repetitive movements and heavy lifting associated with his work.
In early November 2021, Omar fell back onto a pallet, injuring his back. He signaled a senior executive to have his station covered so he could get to Amcare. Omar said he felt distressed when he asked the director to take him to the clinic, where he was given ice and ibuprofen.
“Right now I’m like, ‘Oh my God, if I say I have an injury, that I got hurt, I might lose my job.’ Because they’ve already instilled in me the fear that I’m the one in trouble. I think about my family, my pregnant wife, my kids, all the bills I have and worrying about not being able to work because I am the breadwinner in my household, ”said Omar.
Once at Amcare, he minimized the pain he felt to be sent back to work and continued to work for a few weeks while visiting Amcare about twice a day for ice and ibuprofen. Eventually, he could no longer tolerate the pain and saw his own doctor, who recommended physical therapy, pain relievers and light accommodations.
When he brought his doctor’s forms to Amazon, Omar says he was told he couldn’t go through the recommended physical therapy because it wasn’t approved. He is still waiting to hear about Amazon’s approval of medical treatment and the approval and payment of his workers’ compensation claim.
“I am still in pain today,” added Omar. “We all want to come home safe, and when people are injured they should be treated like human beings and taken care of. “
Irene Tung, senior researcher and policy analyst at NELP, and Debbie Berkowitz, director of worker health and safety at NELP, co-authors of the report, explained that Amazon’s high injury rates are the result of rhythms of rapid work, surveillance and disciplinary systems. They added that workers must operate under constantly changing rules and measures, that regulators are underfunded, and that worker protections are inadequate.
None of these actions Amazon has taken has really hit the heart of the matter, which is the excessively fast pace of work and the way it is enforced through its very distinctive disciplinary system that combines intensive electronic surveillance with a very frequent discipline and dismissal. They haven’t fixed that problem and that’s the fundamental driving force behind these injuries, “Tung said.
Berkowitz added that Amazon’s task discipline technology cultivates a climate of fear among workers and causes them to push their bodies in ways that create high rates of injury.
“Workers are measured by the second and they are punished by the second,” Berkowitz said. “It basically creates an environment where if they aren’t constantly moving, they can be made redundant.”
Several workers who spoke to the Guardian described delays and other obstacles in seeking workers’ compensation or receiving medical treatment after suffering an injury at work at Amazon.
Natalie Monarrez, 52, worked as a ship docker at Amazon in Staten Island, New York, for about four years. During the pandemic, she lived in her car outside the Amazon warehouse while working a lot of overtime – 12-hour shifts, five to six days a week – as many workers took on unpaid leave during the first months of the pandemic.
Monarrez said that several months after the start of the pandemic, the grueling nature of her job and her long hours began to take its toll on her body.
“The swelling in my left ankle had just reached a point where I couldn’t even fit it into a shoe. I had difficulty walking. I had a hard time standing, ”Monarrez said. “Since my job is to sort, I have to stay in one place for my entire shift. We are not allowed to sit and I would lift heavy packages all the time and rotate my upper half of my body. But I couldn’t take it anymore and I knew it was because of the work.
She filed a workers’ compensation claim in August 2020, although she said she was rejected by managers while trying to file the claim until she took off her shoe, showed them her ankle and insists on filing the request and being sent to an Amazon. licensed physician.
Once she filed the claim, Monarrez said she had encountered several problems contacting Amazon workers’ compensation insurer Sedgwick to correct her salary above the weekly minimum and obtain medical treatment. and a medical boot for his ankle approved. She took a few months off, but returned to work because the allowance she was receiving, about $ 400 a week, was far below her regular weekly pay.
“At this point, I went to Walmart and Target and literally bought my own orthotics for my ankle and my foot, and I elevate my foot every night after work,” Monarrez said. “I never had any health problems before working for Amazon.”
Amazon did not comment on workers’ compensation complaints and referred to a blog post by CEO Dave Clark on task oversight and disciplinary systems.
Regarding injury rates, an Amazon spokesperson said in an email, “The safety and well-being of our employees is always a top priority. We recognize that helping employees stay safe in physical roles takes a lot of focus and investment, which is why we are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in safety in different ways, people – we now have a team of nearly 8,000 security professionals dedicated – to training, tools and technology.