Some workers at Amazon.com’s Allentown, Pennsylvania warehouse are reportedly willing to contend with working at a brutal pace in dizzying heat so long as it means having a job.
Only one out of 20 Allentown-based current or former Amazon employees interviewed by The Morning Call reported that the online retailer was a good place to work. During summer heat waves Amazon had paramedics on standby to treat any employees who couldn’t stand the heat, the paper reported. But many workers pushed through difficult working conditions after seeing what happened to other employees who didn’t meet expectations — they were fired and escorted out of the warehouse.
Some employees worked 11-hour days during the holiday season and others were forced to maintain their productivity levels, even during the summer heat, The Morning Call reported. That might be what it takes to get the giant boost in sales Amazon saw last year.
The company says otherwise. Amazon officials told The Morning Call in an emailed statement , "the safety and welfare of our employees is our No. 1 priority," in response to complaints forwarded to the company by the paper.
But this isn’t the first time Amazon has been in hot water over the company’s working conditions. Amazon required some employees to work seven days a week and scared others out of taking sick leave, according to a December 2008 report from The Times of London.
With the unemployment rate hovering above nine percent for months and more than two million Americans who have been jobless for 99 weeks, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some of those interviewed by the paper said they felt lucky to have a job.
The dismal jobs outlook means that it’s not uncommon for workers to avoid complaining about working in dizzying heat, according to Denise McDavid, director of the Contra Costa Builders Exchange. The Northern California-based company brought in Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulators during a May heat wave to educate employers on their obligations to their workers during a heat wave, according to CBS News.
Amazon is one of the few companies that’s been on a hiring spree in an uncertain economy. The company added close to 15,000 employees between the second quarter of 2010 and 2011, TechFlash reported. Many of the new hires came from acquisitions of other distribution centers, which the company is set to continue in 2011, according to TechFlash.
And the employee boost seems to be paying off. Amazon sales surged by 51 percent in the second quarter of 2011, compared with the same period a year ago, according to TechFlash.
Amazon also may have had a leg up in sales because in many states online retailers are allowed to collect and remit sales tax, according to Reuters. The company reached an agreement to collect sales tax beginning September 2012 with California state legislators and the California Retail Association earlier this month.