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December 15, 2021 27 mins

Today we take a close look at how dangerous it is to work at the Amazon Warehouse (hint: it’s 80% more dangerous than working at any other warehouse in their industry). We also discuss the tragedy in Illinois, where a tornado hit an Amazon Warehouse killing six people last week.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon
customer because you guys paid progress. You guys paid problems.
This is megaco, an investigative podcast exposing some of the
world's most unethical corporations. This series is about Amazon. I'm

(00:23):
Jake Hanrahan, journalists and documentary filmmaker. Mega Corp is produced
by H eleven for cool Zone Media. You remember we
briefly spoke about the health and safety conditions inside various

(00:46):
Amazon warehouses. In episode one, we spoke about how people
were getting injured due to unsafe working environments. Well after
that aired, I got a message from a contact of
mine who currently work as an Amazon employee on the
warehouse floor in a warehouse somewhere in America. Now he

(01:06):
still works there, so he doesn't want to kind of
give his identity out, so we would just call him Jim.
Here's what Jim had to say. Those injury statistics. There's
just no way that those statistics are accurate, um, even
though they're really really bad. Because um, one of the
worst things that can help in at Amazon is for
you to report an injury. Because if you reported the injury,

(01:29):
your manager has to fill out a form and then
you go to the on site or infirmary. Um, and
then they make you sit down and then they fill
out of report and then HR is gonna get ahold
of you, and then it turns into a thing where, um,
they really don't want a worker's compensation claim. So UM.
It actually just happened to me today where I was

(01:50):
limping because I have a really bad blistered foot from
working on Black Friday, and one of my co workers
actually told my manager, uh, and it wasn't cool because
I didn't want I was like, this is how bad
it is an Amazon where I was upset that Uh.
My coworkers said that I was hurt because I just

(02:10):
didn't want to go through the process. And all I
had to tell my manager was I don't want to
go to am care, which is that's all you got
to say. Am Care is the Amazon carrots. It's the
thing where they started investigating you. Um, and I just
don't want to go through that at I don't want
to be sent home, I don't want to have to
deal with, uh, the investigation. I don't want to be

(02:32):
harassed by the company. So um, nobody wants to report
those things and we have a general understanding that things like, oh,
he wasn't social distancing enough, or he was late to
work consistently or something like that. They use bullshit excuses
to fire people for reasons that they don't want to
get in trouble for, which is why the best thing

(02:55):
for an Amazon employee is to have nobody talk to you.
I got hired on my first three four months. I
didn't talk to a single human being. I signed on
and I signed into the scanner, and then I just
followed the algorithm and it told me where to go.
Uh And that was when I was sucked with the
least nobody said anything to me by my stotistics or
anything like that. So, um, it's kind of one of

(03:18):
those things where if you stand up for yourself or
if you make your concerns known, they will catch you somehow,
some way. I think it's really sad there how Jim
just says they will catch you somehow, some way, as
if that's a sort of normal thing to be saying. Personally,
I couldn't imagine working in the sort of environment that
has employees hiding injuries so that they don't get fired

(03:41):
or singled out. I've worked in a lot of warehouse jobs,
before I became a reporter. Before I was a journalist,
I worked in warehouses. I worked on building sites as
a laborer. I've done a lot of stuff like that,
and I've never actually experienced something that bad where it's like, no,
I better hide this injury because I don't want to
get in trouble. That's kind of sucked up now. Jim
is only one guy, but I do trust him. He's

(04:03):
even sent me images of injuries he's sustained at Amazon.
But I thought, you know what, let's have a look
at the real environment of health and safety at Amazon
to see what's really going on here. So just last year,
in twenty twenty, the UK's GMB trade union obtained figures

(04:24):
that showed injury rates weren't improving at more than fifty
of the country's Amazon warehouses. GMB used the Freedom of
Information Act to obtain the figures that showed the dire
situation of warehouse safety. In fact, as sited in a
Guardian article by Rob Davies, in the three years leading

(04:46):
up to twenty, more than six hundred Amazon workers have
been seriously injured at UK warehouses. That's an average of
two hundred plus Amazon workers a year sustaining what's classed
a serious injury in the workplace in the UK. The
numbers speak for themselves. The annual total of Amazon ware

(05:09):
house injuries was one hundred and fifty two in the
years twenty sixteen to twenties seventeen. It went up to
two hundred thirty in eighteen, and then up again to
two hundred and forty in twenty nineteen. Now, there's something
in this article that further corroborates what Jim told us.

(05:31):
It talks about how there was an accident at an
Amazon warehouse in fifteen. Basically, somebody drove a forkliff truck
backwards into a steel structure in a warehouse, knocking some
of it down. A report into the incident concluded that
the driver had had elapsed in concentration due to quote

(05:52):
long working hours, something we've heard a lot about already
in this series. Now, the article then goes on to
say this quote. Internal emails from the Health and Safety
executive show that the accident was reported by an Amazon
worker who would not give their name because they were
worried about getting sacked. End quote. Now, if you're not

(06:18):
familiar with UK vernacular, getting sacked means getting fired, you
lose your job. So it seems what Jim told us
that the start has been going on for a while now,
not just in specific warehouses. I mean that stretches from
a UK warehouse in fifteen to a US warehouse in one. Remember,

(06:42):
Jim said he thinks the official figures, which are very
high anyway, for injuries at Amazon warehouses, are too low
because he said, people are worried that if they report
an accident or an injury, they might lose their job.
Even so, these the two sticks for Amazon warehouse injuries
in the US are very high anyway. You've spent the

(07:07):
better part of a year investigating Amazon and its warehouse conditions.
What did you find? We found that they're they're injuring
a tremendous amount of people. These are extremely high injury rates.
The reason behind us is just how fast these warehouses move,
how fast the workers are acquired to move. They're injuring
a tremendous amount of people. So let's look at the

(07:27):
numbers again. Twenty twenty one study by these Strategic Organizing
Center the s o C shows that workers are more
likely to be injured Amazon warehouses than in any other
warehouse in that industry. There also more likely to be
injured more frequently Amazon warehouses, and even more severely. So basically,

(07:53):
if you work in warehouses for a living, you are
way more likely to catch a severe injury working for
Amazon the any of their competitors. The data shows that
Amazon workers had five point nine serious injuries per on people.
For context, that's almost higher than other warehouses in the industry.

(08:16):
Not only that, due to how bad the injuries sustained
at Amazon warehouses are, the s OC discovered that Amazon
workers also took longer to recover than others in their
same industry. In the report, they say, quote in Amazon
workers who experienced lost time injuries were forced off of

(08:38):
work for an average of forty six point three days,
more than a month and a half. This is a
week longer than the average recovery time for workers injured
in the general warehouse industry, and more than two weeks
longer than the recovery time for the average worker who
suffered a lost time injury. End quote. So both lee,

(09:00):
if you work for Amazon, you're more likely to get
funked up in the warehouse. It's more likely to be
a bad injury and you're more likely to have to
take more time off than any other warehouse to recover
from it. The data shows that Amazon's injury rates are
actually more than twice as bad as their strongest competitor, Walmart.

(09:22):
With that in mind, let's hear what Amazon's founder Jeff
Bezos signed off with In his twenty one a letter
to his shareholders, Basos left on a very Bezos like note.
He quotes a passage from a Richard Dawkins book that reads,
in part, staving off death is something that you have
to work at. Staving off death is something you have

(09:46):
to work at. After going through all those numbers, ironically
enough sounds to me that you might even meet your
death whilst trying to work very hard to stave off
your death an Amazon where house. But anyway, let's hear
what else he had to say. He blamed the media
for misrepresenting their employees as desperate souls. Are being treated

(10:09):
like robots, he says, and I according again here, that's
just not accurate. So apparently, according to Jeff Bezos, the
real issues at Amazon, the reporters aren't being accurate anyway.
Not only are people at risk of injury due to
overwork in the Amazon warehouse. They're also at risk due

(10:30):
to Amazon's lack of adequate weather provisions. In the summer
of this year, one Amazon workers at New York's Staten
Island Warehouse had to be carried out of the building
on stretches due to the extreme heat from a summer

(10:52):
heat wave. As reported by independent news outlet Status Coup,
Amazon workers began to faint inside the warehouse, which is
roughly the size of fifteen football pitches. Imagine how much
he has to gather in a place that big to
make it so hot that workers actually start to faint.

(11:13):
Ambulances were cooled and people were stretched out of the building,
but Amazon didn't shut down the warehouse. Instead, they gave
them cheap portable funds, as if that would do anything.
As the workers sweltered in the warehouse, employees in the
offices sat there with the air con When workers would
walk over to HRS officers where the executives were to complain,

(11:36):
those HR officials would have perfectly working air conditioning, and
in many cases they would be wearing hoodiess because it
was actually cold in their corner at the warehouse. That's
the voice of Jordan's Cheriton, the reporter who wrote this
status coup article about Amazon workers fainting in the Staten
Island warehouse, and inside the warehouse they're Amazon claims that

(12:01):
there is a central air conditioner, but if there is,
it's certainly not working. So on the ground floor workers
have told me as soon as they got in there
basically soaking wet from the heat inside the warehouse. And
when you move up to the second, third, fourth floors
of the warehouse it gets even hotter as heat rises.

(12:22):
So I've seen videos just on in one day of
four ambulance visits to Amazon. So it's a mixture of
just sweltering heat. To corroborate all these status could obtained
some of the internal complaints made at this time to
the Amazon HR department from various different warehouse workers. Let's

(12:44):
have a read Edison quote. If there's another oppressive heat
wave like ninety or one degrees fahren high outside, will
the facility be cool enough to work? End quote? Dana
quote is still ways you hot even with the station fans?
How is the system working properly? If internal temperatures a

(13:05):
seventy to eighty degrees Please look into this until it's
fixed properly and comfortable. End quote. Natalie quote, multiple water
stations were out of water today. Many of the vending
machines don't work. They take your money, though. The ice
machines are always broken. If you had more consideration for

(13:26):
your workers, these machines will be checked maintained more often.
It would be greatly appreciated. End quote. It's clear from
all this that the employees were in danger due to
Amazon's inconsiderate working conditions, even when there's a summer heat wave.
But remember what Bezo said, off depth is something that

(13:49):
you have to work at. No. Let's check back in
with Jim. You remember Jim from the start of the episode.
He'd hurt his foot at Amazon, and he was telling
us that he feels workers are scared to report workplace
injuries to Amazon for fear that they might lose their job. Obviously,
Amazon doesn't fire them directly for getting injured, but as

(14:09):
we heard from Jim earlier, he feels, as do other
people that I've spoken to, that Amazon will find an
excuse to get rid of you if you do hurt yourself.
So I kept in contact with Jim to see how
his injury was going, and Eventually it got to a
point where he said, yeah, okay, he's gonna check himself
into am Care and Care is Amazon's on site emergency

(14:32):
clinic for workers. Now he found that after reporting into
am Care telling them he had been injured at work,
he found himself hounded by the managers. Now, maybe they
just wanted to keep a real eye on him to
make sure he was feeling better, but I don't think so.
Here's what he had to say. So today, after every break,

(14:54):
I had a manager asking me about my am care
case and tell me to go talk to am care,
uh to at least check in, even if I wanted
to keep the case open all about the injury. So eventually,
around four o'clock after like the third manager talked to me.

(15:15):
And by the way, the way that the managers talk
to you, it's very like agent Smith in the matrix
because they it's never the same manager, and and like
just like when they discipline you, it's always a manager
that you don't typically see. Like they'll send you from
they'll send you a manager from a different department because

(15:37):
they don't want the manager that you talked to every day.
And it's just supposed to build a positive relationship with
to be the manager that punishes you. So the managers
kind of just appeared out of nowhere, like like, okay,
you're talking to me now, and never were reminding me
to go talk to am Care about this injury case.
So I finally went to am Care. Uh, and I said,

(16:00):
and I'm good with closing the case now. My managers
have helped me to accommodate and adjust to the situation
and I'll deal with it now. Um. And she goes, oh, okay, Uh,
so you want to close the case. I said, yeah,

(16:20):
I want to close the case. I'm going to go
talk to a doctor on my own time. And she goes, oh,
if you're going to go talk to a doctor, then
we got to proceed with the workers compensation claim. And
I said, no, we're going to close the am Care case.
And at this point, I am no longer comfortable sharing
further medical information with Amazon. I could tell with like

(16:44):
the doctor thing, she was like she was giving up
to fight. She's like, Okay, so you're gonna go talk
to your doctor and get a note, and and we're
gonna have our notes and we're gonna have all this
conversation here like like you could hear it in her voice.
I could tell she was just probing for more information
and she was just building a case that gainst the situation. So,
as I said before, Jim is just one of several

(17:05):
Amazon workers I've spoken to for Mega Corps so far.
Bob known Jim for a while and I do trust him.
He showed me photos of the forms, the injuries, and
his work system, all sorts. With that said, I think
it's clear here that as far as Jim is concerned,
the managers at Amazon were more worried about having to
compensate Jim for his injury than the fact he was

(17:27):
injured at all. One last thing that I found funny
here from Jim, I asked for a copy of the form,
and the copying machine was broken. So that probably tells
you how many other people are worried about protecting their
rights when they come through the door. But of course
the copy of machine was broken. Either way, Jim took

(17:48):
a photo of the form and he showed me it.
It's nothing interesting, but for the sake of transparency, it
says the following. After careful consideration, I Jim requesting that
my case with am Care be closed. This includes any
ongoing care slash first aid and scheduled follow ups. I

(18:09):
certify that I am making this request voluntarily, and I
am doing so by my own choice, without duress or
undue influence of any kind. I understand that this request
does not impact my ability to return to am Care
if my injury should begin to affect me again, or
should I have another injury or illness. I understand I
am free to return to am Care for treatment at

(18:32):
any point in time. Then there's the associate signature, and
then the day, which was fairly recently. Now that's just
one example. Jim didn't hurt himself too badly, and he decided, right,
he'll deal with this outside of Amazon, will go and
talk to his doctor. But I think the most interesting
thing about that last thing he said is that his

(18:52):
manager seemed to be gearing up for some kind of
argument when he mentioned he was going to go to
his own doctor. It's like they wanted to settle everything
in house, so does not have to compensate Jim monetarily
for his injury at work in the Amazon warehouse. But
like I said, this is just an example. Make of
it what you will. Now, whilst I was editing this episode,

(19:18):
something truly awful happened. An Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois,
in the US collapsed due to storms and a tornado.
The roof caved in around eight thirty at night on December.
So far, at least six people have died and there
were many still missing, all presumed dead. Also, they were

(19:43):
all Amazon workers. They were Austin J. McEwen twenty six,
DeAndre S. Morrow, Kevin D. Dickey sixty two, Clayton Lynn Cope,
Ethery s Heab t four and Larry E. Verdon. Now

(20:05):
let me be clear, I am, of course not blaming
Amazon for their deaths. Amazon is, of course not responsible
for a shock tornado. In a statement of the press,
they said the following quote, We're deeply saddened by the
news that members of our Amazon family passed away as
a result of the storm in Edwardsville, Illinois. Our thoughts

(20:29):
and prayers with the victims, their loved ones, and everyone
impacted by the tornado. We also want to thank all
the first responders for their ongoing efforts on seen. We're
continuing to provide support to our employees and partners in
the area. End quote. Now they just said there that
they're continuing to give support to their employees. Well are they.

(20:54):
As this statement was released, Amazon workers began to talk online.
One worker, Stefan Jose Jones, posted to Facebook saying that
Amazon were threatening him with disciplinary for not coming back
into work the very next day, even though the police
had called off the area because of course there was

(21:15):
destruction all over the place due to the fact the
warehouse Ruford caved in and six people had just died.
Here's what Stefan Jose Jones wrote on his Facebook page
in full quote, I'm on the phone with Amazon E
r C and they're telling me I'll be marked as
a missing shift, even though the state police just told

(21:37):
me to go home. Then he got the nerve to
get smart with me and say if I want the
points removed, I need to go back to the site
and speak to HR. There is no HR or management office.
It's buried and the building is surrounded by emergency management
and cops. All I know is they better pay me

(21:59):
and relocate us to d l I five or something.
The whole weird thing is all week building maintenance and
different crews have been in there watching us, doing inspections
on the equipment and started hiring for the Safety Committee
yesterday end quote. Another Amazon worker, Leslie Campbell, wrote the

(22:19):
following on Twitter quote. I'm an Amazon worker in Kentucky.
Tornado hit two miles from my house and I physically
couldn't get to work for my shift. The e C
team told me that they had no record of tornadoes
in Kentucky and couldn't help me with not getting attendance
time reduced for today. My house plus many others are

(22:43):
still without power, but that pels in comparison to the
loss of life and homes that others have gone through
in the grand scheme of today, My family and I
were lucky end quote. So before the bodies of six
Amazon workers killed in a tragic natural disaster were barely

(23:03):
even cold, Amazon told workers that they had to get
back to work the very next day. So if you
work on Amazon and you work across the street from
the collapse building, you are to report to your shift
starting at twelve pm tomorrow tomorrow. And they said that

(23:24):
they're providing support to their employees and partners in the area.
It doesn't sound like it to me. There's one more
thing that I want to mention in regards to the
tragedy in Illinois. This came in just as we were
ready to publish this episode. Thank you to everyone that
sends it to me. This was first reported by more

(23:46):
Perfect Union and Excellent platform that's dedicated to building a
better environment for all working people. They specialize in getting
information out there into the media about various situations with
unions and what have you. They published a text message
from Larry Verdon. Remember we mentioned him earlier. He was

(24:09):
one of the people who died when the tornado hit
the Amazon warehouse. This is a tragic text message that
he sent to his girlfriend. It says, quote Larry, well,
I will be home after the storm his girlfriend. What
do you mean, Larry, Amazon won't let us leave his girlfriend?

(24:35):
All it's doing here is lightning? So what are you doing?
I hope everything is okay. I love you? End quote.
Of course, Larry never replied. Sadly, he was killed when
the roof caved in the Amazon warehouse. He leaves behind
four children. Now, there's no more information out there yet

(24:56):
regarding what Larry said, saying that Amazon wouldn't let them leave,
but as comes in, we will keep you updated. To
some this might seem unrelated, but one day after the
tragedy at the Amazon warehouse in Illinois, Jeff Bezos launched
another one of his Blue Origin rockets into near space.

(25:18):
We'll go into Blue Origin in another episode, but basically
it's Jeff's commercial space flight venture. It's something he said
when it launched that all Amazon customers and employees paid
for I want to think every Amazon employee and every
Amazon customer, because you guys paid for all this. Personally,

(25:42):
I think it was bad taste not to postpone the flight,
considering six of those said employees were just killed under
the weight of a collapsing Amazon warehouse as a tornado
tour through it. But that's just me. In the next
episode of Mega Corp, we'll be looking into how exactly

(26:06):
Jeff Bezos made so much money through Amazon and how
he's managed to wrangle it that he paid no corporation
tax in the UK last year whilst making a sales
income of forty four billion euros in Europe. We'll go
over that next week on Megacorp. Megacorp is made by

(26:30):
my production company H eleven for cool Zone Media. It's written, researched,
and produced by myself, Jake Hanrahan. It was also produced
by Sophie Lichtman. Music is by Some Black, graphics by
Adam Doyle and sound engineering by Splicing Block. If you

(26:52):
want to get in touch, follow me on social media
at Jake Underscore Hanrahan. That's h A n I A
h A n m.
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