Amazon Facilities Beset With Complaints
High turnover and heat are the lot of warehouses.
Life inside a sprawling warehouse for internet retailer Amazon isn't so easy, according to more than a few published accounts. Former employees have complained of dangerously high temperatures, long, unpaid waits to pass through security checkpoints and impossibly difficult workloads, all for some $11 an hour. President Obama was criticized in July when he delivered a speech on the middle class at a Amazon warehouse in Chattanooga, Tenn., a community not unlike the one where Mac McClelland of Mother Jones went undercover to report her 2012 piece, "I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave," which didn't identify Amazon by name but purported to represent the industry at large.
"You look way too happy," an Amalgamated supervisor says to me.
"Really?" I ask.
"Well," the supervisor qualifies. "Just everybody else is usually really sad or mad by the time they've been working here this long."
It's my 28th hour as an employee.
I probably look happier than I should because I have the extreme luxury of not giving a shit about keeping this job. Nevertheless, I'm tearing around my assigned sector hard enough to keep myself consistently light-headed and a little out of breath.
And McClelland's account gets worse. She may have been smiling at this early point because she knew she had a story. Before long, the reporter is crying and all but needs an I.V. drip of ibuprofen to get through a day of picking and packing internet merchandise, a job many of her coworkers couldn't afford to walk away from, as she ultimately does (after coming up short on nearly all of the jaw-dropping targets set by her managers).
Which brings us to Tom Daykin's report of this morning citing sources who say that a 1 million square foot development in Kenosha will serve as an Amazon warehouse. On Thursday, Kenosha's Plan Commission will take up "Project Onyx," which calls for a distribution center near the intersection of 38th Street and 108th Avenue, developed by KTR Capital Partners of New York. The Kenosha Common Council has already approved a tax incremental financing district for the project, which would fund roads and infrastructure needed for the building.
Amazon's warehouses are typically staffed by contractors, such as Integrity Staffing Solutions, and few employees actually work for the leading internet merchant, which will be gearing up soon for a holiday season that means even more sweat and toil for its army of pickers. Unless robots can soften the load. Last year, the Seattle-based company purchased Kiva Systems, a company that makes robots for warehouses, and according to Bloomberg Businessweek, the robots can be used to transport merchandise to workers who then pack the stuff for shipping to customers. But as Bloomberg notes, this is a "work in progress."
Also see this extended Daily Mail treatment of "Amazon's Human Robots."
(image via Shutterstock)