Is's Pennsylvania Warehouse a Textbook Sweatshop?

You'd hope that something as innocuous as ordering books and music wouldn't conflict with your high standards about labor practices, but it looks like is running a quintessential sweatshop. It's certainly got all the classic, pre-labor movement elements of one: extreme heat (so much that paramedics are parked outside to treat overworked employees), temp hiring practices (easier to fire you with, my dear), impossibly high expectations for productivity (mandatory overtime). A new piece in Pennsylvania daily The Morning Call exposes the numerous despicable ways Amazon's Allentown warehouse treats its workers, with some pretty shocking personal stories. Elmer Goris, 34-year-old former employee:

He got light-headed, he said, and his legs cramped, symptoms he never experienced in previous warehouse jobs. One hot day, Goris said, he saw a co-worker pass out at the water fountain. On other hot days, he saw paramedics bring people out of the warehouse in wheelchairs and on stretchers.

"I never felt like passing out in a warehouse and I never felt treated like a piece of crap in any other warehouse but this one," Goris said. "They can do that because there aren't any jobs in the area."

Goris' complaints are not unique.

Over the past two months, The Morning Call interviewed 20 current and former warehouse workers who showed pay stubs, tax forms or other proof of employment. They offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it's like to work in the Amazon warehouse, where temperatures soar on hot summer days, production rates are difficult to achieve and the permanent jobs sought by many temporary workers hired by an outside agency are tough to get.

Err, and that's just the lede. Of the 20 employees interviewed, there are numerous horror stories, including one woman who was fired for complaining about tingling in her fingers (from, presumably, heatstroke) and several employees being treated at the emergency room for working conditions in a temperature above 95 degrees. One temp: "Everybody gets backaches, but if you slow down, they reprimand you. They're killing people mentally and physically. They just push, push, push." So. petition, anyone? Read it all here.

AlterNet / By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Posted at September 20, 2011, 6:10am

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