Congress

Sen. Sanders launches investigation into Amazon's workplace practices

Amazon received multiple citations for failing to address workplace hazards earlier this year. The company is appealing.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.
Jose Luis Magana/AP
SMS

Sen. Bernie Sanders sent a letter to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy on Tuesday saying his Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee plans to investigate "dangerous and illegal conditions at Amazon's warehouses." 

In the letter, Sanders claims Amazon has put profits at "all costs" leading to "unsafe physical environments, intense pressure to work at unsustainable rates, and inadequate medical attention for tens of thousands of Amazon workers every year."

As part of his investigation, Sanders is asking for workers to file complaints with him to follow up on.

"We’ve reviewed the letter and strongly disagree with Senator Sanders’ assertions," Amazon said in a statement to Scripps News.

Amazon said it has extended an invitation to Sanders to visit its facilities. 

Amazon workers walk off the job, protesting recent company changes
Amazon workers walk off the job, protesting recent company changes

Amazon workers walk off the job, protesting recent company changes

Around 1,700 corporate Amazon employees walked out of the office Wednesday to stand up against decisions regarding climate action.

LEARN MORE

Sanders cited recent Department of Labor investigations that resulted in citations against the company. In April, the Department of Labor claimed Amazon failed to provide adequate medical treatment for injuries at a fulfillment center in Castleton, New York. 

The department said at least 10 employees did not receive timely and necessary medical care. The Department of Labor said many of these employees returned to work, only to make their injuries worse. 

In February, the Department of Labor cited Amazon for exposing workers to ergonomic hazards at a facility in Colorado. Earlier in the month, Amazon was cited for failing to keep workers safe at warehouses in Colorado, Idaho and New York. 

The company was cited in January for violating a requirement of providing a safe workplace at facilities in Florida, Illinois and New York. 

"The work at these fulfillment facilities is physically demanding. Returning a worker with a back injury or possible concussion to their job without proper medical evaluation and care can lead to prolonged injuries and lifelong suffering," said assistant secretary for occupational safety and health Doug Parker. 

Amazon said it has appealed all of the cases against it. 

"We take the safety and health of our employees very seriously," Kelly said. "There will always be ways to improve, but we’re proud of the progress we've made which includes a 23% reduction in recordable injuries across our U.S. operations since 2019. We've invested more than $1 billion into safety initiatives, projects, and programs in the last four years, and we'll continue investing and inventing in this area because nothing is more important than our employees' safety."

But Sanders claims what Amazon is doing is not enough. 

Labor secretary nominee Julie Su on a tough path to confirmation
Labor secretary nominee Julie Su on a tough path to confirmation

Labor secretary nominee Julie Su on a tough path to confirmation

President Biden has nominated Julie Su to be secretary of labor. She faces tough questions about her track record.

LEARN MORE

"In its endless pursuit of profits, Amazon sacrifices workers' bodies under the constant pressure of a surveillance system that enforces impossible rates. When faced with worker injuries, Amazon provides minimal medical care," he wrote. "This system forces workers to endure immeasurable long-term pain and disabilities while Amazon makes incredible profits from their labor."

As of the end of 2021, Amazon reported having over 1.1 million employees in the U.S. The company employed 761,568 people labeled as laborers or helpers.