SOC Statement on Washington OSHA Finding ‘Willful, Serious’ Violations at Amazon Warehouse
“Washington OSHA’s unprecedented citation sends a clear message to Amazon: your punishing profit model is under sharper scrutiny than ever before, and you will be held accountable for failing to protect workers from serious injuries.
“As the Strategic Organizing Center’s analyses have shown, Amazon treats its workers from the warehouse to the delivery route as disposable in its relentless drive for profit. The company’s merciless focus on volume and work pace, coupled with constant surveillance of its employees, directly puts workers’ health and safety at risk. It’s time for the federal government to join state efforts to hold Amazon to its legal, ethical and moral responsibility to protect its own employees from the very real danger of career-threatening injuries.”
-Eric Frumin, Health & Safety Director, the Strategic Organizing Center
Washington State OSHA today announced a citation for multiple “Willful Serious” health and safety violations at the global retailer’s flagship warehouse and fulfillment center in Kent, Washington, finding a “direct connection” between the company’s “very high pace of work” and “monitoring and discipline system,” and the high risk of “workplace musculoskeletal disorders.”
The latest citation ratchets up pressure on the global retail giant, which has come under fire across the country for rampant disregard of worker safety. WA OSHA previously issued citations for similar health and safety violations at two other Amazon warehouses, however, Monday’s announcement marks the first time the state body has found violations at Amazon to be “Willful” — the worst category of OSHA violation. Nationally, only 0.4% of OSHA violations are classified as “Willful.”
The citation also finds that Amazon violated WA OSHA regulations by failing to report COVID cases to WA OSHA, as recently as September. It orders Amazon to pay $60,000 and to fix the hazards by May 11, 2022.
The Strategic Organizing Center last year released a bombshell report showing workers at Amazon facilities sustained more than 24,000 serious injuries in 2020 — a serious injury rate nearly two times that of the non-Amazon warehousing and storage industry. The report, ‘Primed for Pain,’ used never-before analyzed data over a four-year period through 2020, and showed that even as Amazon faced growing public scrutiny of its safety record, its workers were injured at substantially higher rates than non-Amazon workers in the same industries. Amazon workers continued to suffer these higher rates of injury despite years of protests against the company’s high-pressure working environment and production quotas.
Last year, SOC also released a report, ‘Hidden Pandemic,’ showing that Amazon put workers’ lives at risk by depriving federal and state OSHAs of information about COVID-19 cases in its facilities, undermining their ability to identify workplace hazards and to hold the company accountable for unsafe conditions. The company, despite, having announced publicly in October 2020 that it had identified nearly 20,000 COVID cases nationally among its employees, subsequently reported only 27 cases of “respiratory conditions” (the category in which COVID cases are reported) to OSHA for all of 2020.
In February, the Strategic Organizing Center released a factsheet disputing Amazon’s self-published workplace safety report, challenging the analysis as a “misleading, self-serving assessment” of the global retail giant’s disturbing track record on workplace safety.
Earlier this year, Washington State lawmakers introduced SB5891, a bill that would prohibit warehouse operators such as Amazon from enforcing unsafe work quotas.
The Strategic Organizing Center (formerly Change to Win) is a democratic coalition of labor unions representing millions of working people and is dedicated to improving their lives.