In a bipartisan request, Senators Marco Rubio, (R-Fla.), and Sherrod Brown, (D-Ohio), call on the U.S. Department of Labor to conduct a full investigation into Amazon’s labor practices, citing recent reports suggesting serious labor law violations.
The signatory senators made their claim through a letter addressed to U.S. Secretary of Labor Martin Walsh, expressing concern about the situation of Amazon employees in the U.S. and therefore requesting urgent action by the department.
“Recent reports have brought to light troubling working conditions at Amazon that suggest improper treatment of its employees, to the detriment of workers and families across the country,” the senators wrote.
As the release reads, the lawmakers’ interest in ensuring that the company’s labor practices are fair and in compliance with the law is heightened because the e-commerce giant employs 1 in 170 U.S. employees.
The senators cited a number of cases that, in their view, account for ‘chronic mismanagement’ in the company’s labor relations.
They noted, for example, that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that Amazon wrongfully terminated a worker who complained of unsafe working conditions during the pandemic, along with two others who reported similar issues.
They also noted that the NLRB allegedly ordered workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, to re-conduct an election that voted against unionization. According to the brief, Amazon’s actions ‘made a free and fair election impossible during the election.’
The lawmakers also cited the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) request, through which it ordered the investigation of six Amazon employees at an Illinois warehouse when it collapsed during a tornado.
One of the accident victims texted his girlfriend before the deadly tornado occurred, saying the company had ordered him not to drive home to his house and stay inside the warehouse until the storm passed, the New York Post reported.
The lawmakers also base their claim on ongoing reports of workers not having time to use the bathroom at work and being forced to resort to extraordinary measures such as urinating in bottles to meet work demands. The company initially denied these allegations.
The accusations against Amazon highlight its lack of social commitment and its overemphasis on economic returns over and above the quality of the work environment and the well-being of workers, which is exacerbated by the fact that it is one of the largest employers in the country and one of the largest profit-makers in the country.