Amazon Workers Detail Disturbing Work Conditions in Complaint Filed to the National Labor Relations Board
Former employees said they were aggressively placed under surveillance and forced to pee in bottles to meet quotas.
Amazon is facing a slew of disturbing accusations, including attempts to silence workers who wanted to organize and increased surveillance of employees, NBC News reports.
The online marketplace currently faces at least 37 charges filed to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), some of which date back to February 2020 and come from 20 cities across the country, according to the outlet. The complaints, which are triple in number of similar grievances filed against Amazon in 2019, allege that the company has repeatedly tried to stop workers from unionizing.
Workers at warehouses in cities like Chicago, New York and Minneapolis have purportedly demanded improved working conditions by striking and protesting in recent weeks. But Amazon has responded in kind: The billion-dollar company has fired key organizers, stepped up its anti-union propaganda efforts and surveilled workers more closley, NBC News notes.
Several former workers who were fired told the outlet that they had been aggressively interrogated for taking part in union efforts, while also claiming that the company had selectively enforced policies related to social distancing and the use of offensive language. Some of those same workers also accused Amazon of making allegations against them that seemingly played into racist stereotypes.
Leah Seay, an Amazon spokeswoman, however, dismissed those claims.
"We have zero tolerance for racism or retaliation of any kind, and in many cases these complaints come from individuals who acted inappropriately toward co-workers and were terminated as a result," she told NBC News. "We work hard to make sure our teams feel supported, and will always stand by our decision to take action if someone makes their colleagues feel threatened or excluded."
Still, at least one employee argued otherwise, telling the outlet that the company had filled his warehouse with anti-union banners — and even placed a sign over a bathroom stall. Another worker said he was suspended for three months after he broke a new social-distancing rule that prohibited employees from staying on site for more than 15 minutes after their shifts ended.
Labor experts further told NBC News that Amazon had increased surveillance to track how quickly its workers packed and sort items — presumably to see how productive they were with their time. Seay shot down that assertion, telling the outlet that the company was instead tracking inventory.
The publicization of the charges come at a time when the Intercept recently revealed that Amazon was well-aware that its drivers had publicly defecated and urinated in bottles in a desperate effort to meet quotas. The company supposedly refused to lighten its drivers' workloads, despite internally addressing the "unsanitary garbage" that was left in its trucks.
The NLRB is now determining whether the allegations brought by complainants in the 20 cities "warrant a consolidated effort between the regions," according to NBC News.
Justin Chan is a news writer at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, he was a trending news editor at Verizon Media, where he covered entrepreneurship, lifestyle, pop culture, and tech. He was also an assistant web editor at Architectural Record, where he wrote on architecture, travel, and design. Chan has additionally written for Forbes, Reader's Digest, Time Out New York, HuffPost, Complex, and Mic. He is a 2013 graduate of Columbia Journalism School, where he studied magazine journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @jchan1109.