This upcoming Thursday is Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting, but the 99% aren’t waiting until then to demand change and draw major attention to their concerns about the online giant.
Just over a week ago, Amazon employees joined with supporters outside of Amazon’s new headquarters in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle. Activists carried signs that read “Hello, Amazon, see you on May 24,” referencing this week’s shareholder meeting.
“Conditions at Amazon warehouses in Pennsylvania and Kentucky have come under scrutiny,” reported the Seattle Times,” in an article that described “news reports where former employees describing workers collapsing in the summer heat, getting fired after injuries and other problems.
One article, from the Allentown Morning Call of Pennsylvania, described the working conditions in this way:
“During summer heat waves, Amazon arranged to have paramedics parked in ambulances outside, ready to treat any workers who dehydrated or suffered other forms of heat stress. Those who couldn’t quickly cool off and return to work were sent home or taken out in stretchers and wheelchairs and transported to area hospitals. And new applicants were ready to begin work at any time.”
Karen Salasky and Jim Herbolt, two former workers from Pennsylvania, were there at the rally to describe these working conditions that seemed to be out of another country:
“They made you feel that everything you did, if you passed out in front of them, it was your fault. It was always your fault,” said Karen.
“Jeff [Bezos],” called Karen, referencing Amazon’s CEO and founder, “where I worked was above 115 degrees on certain days. Because of us, you’re successful.”
What Karen was describing was ringing true for Amazon employees in attendance. “As Salasky spoke about feeling overworked and underpaid,” reported the Seattle Times, “an employee in the audience said, ‘I sure am!’ before being shushed by a co-worker.
61-year-old Jim Herbolt, who was fired “when he couldn’t keep up the pace,” said that Amazon needs to “make a lot of corrections and listen to what the people tell them, and make the corrections. And they’d have people that want to stay there and work. People don’t want to be treated like garbage.”
“They treated me and everyone there like a tool, when it went dull they just threw you away and brought someone else in,” Jim explained. “They know the way the economy is they can just throw you away and bring somebody else in.”
“Does anyone out there think Amazon can’t afford it?” asked a local labor official, drawing a chorus of “No!” from the crowd. “But they’re not motivated, right?”
Together, on May 24th, we will hold Amazon accountable – to be a fair citizen, a fair employer, and to pay their fair share of taxes.