Civil rights groups urge lawmakers to crack down on ‘dangerous’ surveillance of Amazon workers

Civil rights groups are calling on lawmakers and regulators to crack down on Amazon for its worker pace monitoring system.

More than 35 civil rights organizations signed a letter on Monday urging action. The letter was published on the day of Amazon’s two-day Prime Day sale, which activists criticized, arguing it increases pressure on workers.

“It’s time for lawmakers and regulators to step in and end the punitive system of constant monitoring that drives the dangerous work pace at Amazon,” the groups wrote, according to a copy of the letter shared with The Hill.

The letter specifically calls on state and federal authorities to enact laws prohibiting surveillance-based discipline and control to ensure workers are protected from “abusive conditions.”

The groups are also calling for updates to the standards and enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards to end practices that keep pace and leave workers.

The letter also urges agencies to investigate Amazon for workplace abuse, including injury, retaliation and discrimination.

“We demand that lawmakers and regulators do everything in their power to end the rate and leave duties, ensuring that Amazon cannot use this punitive monitoring system to browse the world. whole workforce in communities across the country, ”the letter said.

Signatories include anti-Amazon group Athena, Fight for the Future, Free Press, Government Accountability Project, and Public Citizen.

Amazon spokesman Max Gleber defended the company’s workplace policies in a statement to The Hill.

“Like most businesses, we have performance expectations for every Amazon employee and we measure actual performance against those expectations. Associate performance is measured and evaluated over a period of time because we know that a variety of things can impact the ability to meet expectations on any day or time, ”Gleber said.

Gleber added that Amazon’s scanning devices are used to track inventory, not people. The spokesperson also said the company supports employees who take time off “as needed.”

Regarding workplace safety, Gleber noted that the company had invested more than $ 1 billion in new safety measures in 2020.

“Although one incident is one incident too many, we are constantly learning and seeing improvements through ergonomics programs, guided exercises at employee workstations, mechanical support equipment, configuration and maintenance. workstation design, as well as telematics and forklift guardrails, to name a few. “

The push comes as the Seattle-based e-commerce giant faces increased scrutiny of its working conditions.

The Washington state security regulator last month determined that the pace of work at Amazon was a danger. A quote from the Washington Department of Labor and Industry stated that there is “a direct link between Amazon’s employee monitoring and discipline systems and MSDs in the workplace.” [musculoskeletal disorders]. “

An Amazon spokesperson told the Seattle Times the company plans to appeal the quote and said “nothing is more important than the health and safety of our teams.”

Amid the backlash earlier this month, Amazon announced a $ 12 million workplace injury initiative in partnership with the National Safety Council to find and reduce the most common workplace injuries. The initiative will seek to find “innovative solutions” to prevent musculoskeletal disorders or injuries involving nerves, muscles, joints and other parts of the body.

Civil rights groups rejected the initiative.

“Amazon has announced wellness programs and funding for injury research, but it refuses to do the one thing that would stop widespread injuries: eliminate the rate and time off,” they wrote.

In addition to the letter, activists are staging protests across the country on Monday to protest the Prime Day sale.

Workers and community members will hold a virtual rally on Monday evening to advocate for workplace safety at Amazon facilities. The rally will be televised live and broadcast on the founder of Amazon Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston Bezos The Tax Code’s Achilles Heel Surprisingly Popular – And It’s A Problem To Tax The Wealthy Overnight Energy: Declining Lake Mead Hints at a Scary Future for Water in the West | White House leads opposition to gas tax hike | Biden appeals to ex-New Mexico lawmaker for USDA article on money: Centrists gain influence over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle | White House rules out gas tax increase‘s DC home, according to the organizers.

Activists from more than 20 states will also hang banners from bridges and viaducts to protest Amazon’s working conditions.

Workers’ organizations, advocates and academics will also hold a town hall on Twitter to discuss Amazon’s use of worker monitoring, and Amazon workers and advocates will also join a member of the assembly. California to discuss a proposal to increase worker safety.

In response to the planned protests, Gleber said, “This is a series of misleading claims from uninformed or interested groups who are using Amazon’s profile to advance their individual causes.”

“Amazon has a strong track record of supporting our employees, customers and communities, including providing safe working conditions and a starting salary of $ 15 with great benefits,” added Gleber.

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