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Amid Amazon Prime Day Protests, Sanders and Omar Lead Call for Probe of 'Brutal and Hazardous Working Conditions'

"The reports of dangerous, dehumanizing conditions—where 125,000 Americans are working for the wealthiest man in the history of the world—are sickening."

Democrats in Congress are demanding a federal investigation into workplace conditions at Amazon's warehouses in the United States.

Democrats in Congress are demanding a federal investigation into workplace conditions at Amazon's warehouses in the United States. (Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images)

As protests of Amazon's 48-hour "Prime Day" continued Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders and a dozen House Democrats demanded a federal probe of workplace conditions employees have described as "grueling" and "unsafe."

A letter (pdf) to the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration—spearheaded by Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.)—outlines in detail the "unacceptable" conditions that hundreds of workers have reported at the warehouses operated by Amazon and its subsidiaries and contractors.

"Amazon operates more than 100 warehouses across that country that employ more than 125,000 people, yet in the last five years OSHA has reported conducting only 150 inspections of Amazon spaces and issued just 41 violations," the letter notes. "OSHA has previously found that Amazon fails to report worker injuries and when OSHA does investigate, your agency has found instances of egregious injuries, including fractures and amputations."

"Hold this corporate malfeasance accountable."
—Rep. Ilhan Omar

"Owing to the breadth and severity of past violations as well as mounting public revelations of brutal and hazardous working conditions," the letter continues, "we request that OSHA launch a thorough and comprehensive investigation into the workplace conditions at all of Amazon's warehouses, and that any violations uncovered in the course of such investigation be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

The letter was also signed by Democratic Reps. Debbie Dingell (Mich.), Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), Al Green (Texas), Deb Haaland (N.M.) Ro Khanna (Calif.), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Andy Levin (Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.).

Noting the massive fortune of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Sanders said in a statement Tuesday that "people who work for a company owned by the wealthiest person in America should not have to risk their lives, health, or well-being on the job. They must be treated with dignity and respect."

Omar, in the statement and on Twitter, highlighted some of the conditions that workers have reported.

"Amazon workers often work in overheated facilities without air conditioning," she said. "They fear taking bathroom and water breaks for fear of retaliation. Workplace injuries are often ignored—sometimes leaving workers homeless or bereft of income. There are multiple reports of deaths of Amazon workers on the company's watch."

Urging OSHA to "hold this corporate malfeasance accountable" by launching a probe, Omar declared Amazon "a 21st century sweatshop."

The letter from lawmakers followed Amazon workers' strikes on Monday and calls from labor advocates for consumers to boycott the internet retailer's two-day sale.

As Common Dreams reported Monday, "protests against the company's business practices and support for the Trump administration's anti-immigration agenda" were held in several cities, and came as Amazon critics voiced support for employees at a fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minnesota who planned a work stoppage "to protest what they say are long working hours, insufficient breaks, and unrealistic packing quotas."

Demonstrations targeting Amazon continued alongside Prime Day Tuesday, and included a march to Bezos' house intended to pressure the company to cut ties with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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