US Senators urge EEOC to think about Amazon’s strategy to pregnant staff: NPR
A worker leaves an Amazon warehouse in North Las Vegas on March 31. John Locher / AP Hide caption
John Locher / AP
John Locher / AP
Six U.S. Senators are calling for a federal investigation into the treatment of pregnant Amazon employees in its camps. It is the latest move by lawmakers across the country to put the working conditions of the company’s emerging workforce at the center of regulatory attention.
The US Equal Opportunities Commission should investigate whether “Amazon is systematically denying adequate accommodation to pregnant employees at its fulfillment centers,” wrote Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, DN.Y., in a letter co-signed by Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt . Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., And three other Democrats.
The letter cited multiple lawsuits and at least two cases where pregnant women accused Amazon of denying requests for reassignment or lighter duties, arguing that doing so violated federal protections for workers with pregnancies and disabilities.
Amazon representatives did not immediately respond to the letter published on Friday.
Working conditions at Amazon’s warehouses, which have sprung up like mushrooms in the US, have recently attracted intensified scrutiny. Amazon is now the second largest private employer in the country after Walmart, with over 950,000 employees, most of whom work in warehouses.
Advocates have particularly focused on the speed quotas required of workers in Amazon warehouses. Critics say the pace can be unhealthy and unsustainable, forcing workers to skip toilet breaks and bypass safety measures.
On Wednesday, California legislators passed the first law of its kind that could give warehouse workers new powers to combat these quotas. It would also result in more publicity of the specific speed requirements Amazon places on its warehouse workers and their impact on worker health.
Research by news organizations and the worker-backed Strategic Organizing Center has found that the rate of serious injuries in Amazon warehouses is nearly double the industry average.
Founder Jeff Bezos said in a letter to shareholders in April that Amazon had hired 6,200 safety professionals and committed $ 300 million to work safety projects in 2021.
“We don’t set unreasonable performance goals,” he wrote. “We set achievable performance targets that take into account the term of office and the actual performance data of the employees.”
Speed quotas and the company’s extensive automated productivity monitoring were among the primary concerns of workers pushing for the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama – a high-profile effort to establish Amazon’s first US unionized warehouse, the an overwhelming majority failed.
However, Bessemer workers could get a fix because a federal labor officer determined that Amazon’s anti-union tactics tainted the original vote enough enough to ruin the results. A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board is expected to decide in the coming weeks whether – or when – to vote again.
Publisher’s Note: Amazon is one of the financial supporters of NPR.