Jennifer Bates, as Amazon employee who works at the Bessemer, Alabama fulfillment center testifies at "The Income and Wealth Inequality Crisis in America" Senate Budget Committee hearing on March 17, 2021. Background photo is a fulfillment center in Minnesota where workers protested in 2018 against working conditions such as workers being tracked by computer and required to work at a high rate of speed, such as scanning something every 7 seconds, and the required speed is increased over time. People of East African descent make up 30-60% of the workforce at this location. Photo credit: Fibonacci Blue

25 Labor injustices we found out about Amazon during Congressional hearing

2 mins read

“Amazon brags they pay workers above the minimum wage. What they don’t tell you is what those jobs are really like and they certainly don’t tell you they can do much better for the workers,” said Jennifer Bates.

This week, held the Senate Budget Hearing on the “Income and Wealth Inequality Crisis in America.” Invited to testify by Chairman Bernie Sanders (D-VT) was Jennifer Bates who works at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama. During the testimony, she detailed the working conditions that led to employees decided to establish union representation with Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

| Read: Amazon fudges Whole Foods prices

In her testimony, Bates talked about various intimidation tactics Amazon used to discourage a pro-union vote by workers. Here’s over two-dozen things we found out about Amazon’s practices.

  1. Workers endured long shifts.
  2. Workers expected to produce at fulfillment center at a super fast pace
  3. Worked under constant surveillance.
  4. Workers have only two 30-minute breaks during a 10-hour shift.
  5. The size of the fulfillment center is about several football fields, so walking to the bathroom and back eats up most of the time.
  6. Workers, including older people, had to lift things and climb up stairs in a 4 floor building.
  7. Workers are not allowed to use the one elevator designated for riders.
  8. While there are plenty of elevators, they are only for materials, but workers must use stairs.
  9. Workers’ every move gets tracked with a scanner.
  10. When workers’ computers aren’t scanning, even if you’re working, you’re charged as being off task.
  11. If you worked too slow or too much time off-task was recorded, you will be disciplined or fired.
  12. A lot of workers quit because of the laborious demand, and inability to keep up with the strenuously fast pace.
  13. Workers were humiliated with random security checks to see if they were stealing merchandise.
  14. Security checks often happen during workers’ breaks, which eats into their time, but they’re not given the time back missed when they were waiting to be cleared.
  15. Workers received messages from managers through app or text
  16. People get fired with no real reason, but are not able to talk to any higher-ups at Amazon management.
  17. Amazon executives spent millions telling workers they did not need a union
  18. Amazon executives are taking concerted efforts to stop the union drive.
  19. Workers were forced into mandatory union education meetings that last for an hour and would happen several times a week.
  20. At the meetings, Amazon higher-ups would talk about how unions would be bad for workers.
  21. When someone challenged Amazon officials at the meetings, they would shut the meetings down then meet with workers individually while workers were on the floor.
  22. Amazon officials lied to workers saying that they would lose their benefits if they joined the union.
  23. All around the plant, Amazon put up anti-union messages.
  24. Amazon officials sent anti-union messages to workers’ phones.
  25. Amazon officials placed anti-union signs in bathroom stalls.

Voting for the largely African American staff started ends, March 29. If the vote succeeds, it will be the first employees of Amazon to join a union. But the path to union representation has been hard fought.

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