Government and Politics
November 23, 2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) pressed Amazon on workplace safety ahead of the holiday sales season. The letter comes after continued disturbing reports of dangerous workplace conditions at Amazon facilities throughout the country, particularly the tragic deaths of three workers within three weeks in New Jersey Amazon facilities earlier this summer. Additionally, reports have shown that from 2020 to 2021, Amazon Warehouses' injury rates increased by 54% in New Jersey and 20% across the country.
“As this pattern of insufficient response by Amazon continues and the effects are evident, it is even more important for Amazon to address exacerbated safety issues during busy holidays for consumers,” the Senators wrote to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy. “In 2019, a report found that Amazon employees suffered serious injuries at five times the rate of the national average for all private industries.5 Rafael Mota, an Amazon worker at a facility in Carteret was the first of three New Jersey Amazon employees who died this summer. His coworkers reported that Rafael had pleaded for fans to be placed near them in the facility, a request which was denied hours before his death. This fatality occurred on Prime Day, the biggest “deal event of the year.” Data from 2019 shows that Amazon had full knowledge of the risks associated with Prime Day and internal reports warned that warehouses in New Jersey, New York, Maryland and Connecticut “were expecting an increase in injuries across all sites during Prime Week.”6 Eleven days after Rafael’s death, an Amazon employee died at a facility in Robbinsville, New Jersey, a location which had a record of worker safety violations.7 The following week, another fatality occurred at a delivery station in Monroe, New Jersey. This is abhorrent”
“Reporting suggests that conditions for Amazon workers are worsening and are out of line with industry norms, leading to ongoing federal investigations and litigation across the country,” the Senators continued. “Indeed, OSHA is conducting an ongoing investigation into hazards in Amazon warehouses in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, Tennessee, Washington, and nation-wide. Under the OSHA law, employers have a legal obligation to provide a workplace free of hazards that can cause serious physical harm or death. We urge you to proactively implement policies to improve conditions in the meantime.”
Specifically, the Senators urged Amazon to:
Immediately implement paid, comprehensive workplace safety trainings for all employees, including temporary workers, independent contractors, and any other worker performing duties for Amazon;
Take steps to improve warehouse ventilation and air quality, including through facilities upgrades and investments including new or enlarged A/C units, fans, and windows with the ability to open.
Improve shift rotations so that workers are not spending prolonged periods of time working close to significant indoor heat sources, including large-scale machinery like boilers, or performing highly aerobic activities without rest;
Allow and encourage workers to take a preventative cool-down rest in the cool areas when they feel the need to do so to protect themselves from overheating and such access shall be permitted at all times.
Address the sky-high rates of musculoskeletal disorders in all operations by immediately conducting a safety analysis to identify the ergonomic hazards and implement job design changes that reduce the risk to workers.
Provide adequate and timely medical referral for a doctor’s care to injured workers, assuring that the delays in care found by OSHA in its investigations of the New Jersey Robbinsville facility no longer exist and that all medical staff are operating under their legal scope of practice.
Hire enough workers to provide all workers with appropriate time off with their families.
During his time in the Senate, Senator Booker has led efforts in calling out workplace safety concerns. Specifically, in 2020 related to the coronavirus pandemic, he sent a letter to Amazon, the U.S. Postal Service, and Walmart.
The full text of the letter can be viewed here.