Bernie Sanders to Amazon: You may not pay much attention to the health and safety of your workers, but I will.
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Usually, Amazon does the deliveries. But on Tuesday, the company received a letter that it probably wished it could return to its sender, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). That’s because it came with a clear message: “I am watching you.”
Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), put the company on notice that the panel will investigate Amazon’s “abysmal” safety record.
The senator noted that the company’s “egregious violations of workplace safety laws” have already resulted in various Occupational Safety and Health Administration citations, and that the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is investigating the company for potentially misrepresenting the scope of workplace injuries.
Now, Amazon can add the HELP committee to the list of entities that are looking into its business and safety and health practices.
“The time has come for Amazon to stop willfully violating workplace safety laws with impunity and commit to changing its operations to protect the health and safety of its workers,” Sanders stated in a strongly worded letter to the company’s CEO Andy Jassy.
Even worse than Amazon’s safety record is that it seems to be the result of calculated decisions to maximize profits instead of protecting employees, the senator alleges.
“At every turn — from warehouse design and workstation setup, to pace of work requirements, to medical care for injuries and subsequent pressure to return to work — Amazon makes decisions that actively harm workers in the name of its bottom line,” Sanders added.
These decisions have made Amazon’s warehouses “uniquely dangerous,” according to the senator, who notes that the company’s injury rate of 6.6 per 100 workers is twice that of other warehouses, and that Amazon workers suffered more serious injuries in 2022 than all other US warehouse workers combined.
Sanders believes that it doesn’t have to be this way.
“Amazon should be one of the safest places in America to work, not one of the most dangerous,” Sanders wrote.
Stating how much the company is worth ($1.3 trillion), how much money its owner Jeff Bezos has (more than $150 billion), how much it spent in stock buybacks last year ($6 billion), and how much it pays Jassy ($289 million over the past two years), the senator argues that there should be enough money to keep workers safe.
Sanders leaves no doubt that he believes that Amazon’s fortune has been amassed in part at the expense of its workers.
“The company’s quest for profits at all costs has led to unsafe physical environments, intense pressure to work at unsustainable rates, and inadequate medical attention for tens of thousands of Amazon workers every year,” Sanders wrote.
The senator claims that the company is well aware of the dangerous workplace conditions at its facilities and what it could do to address them. However, in spite of knowing about the “life-altering consequences for workers injured on the job,” he argues that Amazon refuses to take the necessary steps.
“[The] company has made a calculated decision not to implement adequate worker protections because Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, and you, his successor as Chief Executive Officer, have created a corporate culture that treats workers as disposable,” Sanders wrote.
As a first step of the committee’s investigation. Sanders demands a wealth of information from Amazon, including an explanation why its injury rates are so much higher, details on why it has not implemented various safety recommendations, and internal communications related to occupational safety.
The senator also wants to know whether the company has ever studied the impact of its pace of work on injury rates.
As part of its probe, the HELP committee has also launched a website that the company’s employees can use to share their experiences related to workplace safety and health.