Amazon Promises To Improve Working Conditions In Warehouses

At Amazon, things are going to cool down a little.

Jeff Bezos, CEO of the online retail giant, said at the annual shareholders meeting on Thursday that Amazon would be spending $52 million to retrofit its warehouses with air conditioners.

Bezos's announcement comes some eight months after a report in The Morning Call, a Pennsylvania newspaper, that detailed the working conditions at an Amazon warehouse in Lehigh Valley. At that facility, according to the report, employees worked in sweltering temperatures in the summer and sometimes had to be removed on stretchers or in wheelchairs.

Amazon later issued a statement to The Hollywood Reporter acknowledging that some of its facilities, including the Lehigh Valley warehouse, did not have air conditioning, and that the company was in the process of adding AC to some of its buildings.

It wasn't clear from Bezos's remarks on Thursday how many warehouses would be retrofitted with air conditioning. Last year, the company paid $2.4 million to install air conditioning at four of its facilities, according to MarketWatch.

Amazon's net sales rose 41 percent last year, but the boom in business is reportedly taking a toll on employees. This spring, The Seattle Times spoke to several Amazon warehouse workers who said the company's focus on efficiency and productivity was compromising the health of workers who actually move the physical products from place to place.

Employees told the ST that they'd sustained injuries on the job and been pressured to seek treatment in a way that didn't alert the government to the possibility of unsafe work conditions at Amazon.

The company has fielded multiple accusations of overworking its employees in the last several years. In 2008, the London Times reported that Amazon warehouse workers in the UK were being penalized for taking sick days and made to work seven days a week.

More than 100 protestors, headed by the labor rally group Working Washington with the help of the advocacy group Color of Change, showed up at Amazon's shareholders meeting at the Seattle Art Museum this Thursday, demanding that the company "pay more taxes, treat its workers better and drop its membership" in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), according to The Seattle Times.

During the meeting, Amazon general counsel Michelle Wilson said that the company will drop its ALEC membership "because of positions they've taken not related to our business," the Los Angeles Times reports.

ALEC has come under scrutiny for its support of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" gun laws, a central issue in the controversy surrounding the Trayvon Martin case. Companies such as McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Wendy's and others have dropped their ALEC memberships over the organization's involvement with the laws.

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