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.
THIS is what solidarity looks like:
@SenSanders, @IlhanMN, and 11 other Members of Congress are calling on @OSHA_DOL to immediately investigate chronic violations of workplace safety at *ALL* Amazon warehouses
— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) July 16, 2019
"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."
Amazon workers fear taking bathroom and water breaks for fear of retaliation.
There are multiple reports of deaths of Amazon workers on the company’s watch.
No worker should be treated like this.
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) July 16, 2019
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.
— AwoodCenterMPLS (@AwoodMpls) July 16, 2019
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."
What a powerful day! @amazon workers in Minnesota held a powerful #PrimeDayStrike to stand up for what is right and to end retaliation. Do you think Amazon will #HearOurVoice?#PrimeDay #PrimeDayAmazon #AmazonPrimeDay #primeday2019 pic.twitter.com/hhaFsWZxf0
— AwoodCenterMPLS (@AwoodMpls) July 15, 2019
Today CTUL is at the @amazon Fulfillment Center in Shakopee marching in solidarity with @AwoodMpls as Amazon Workers strike for safe, good, and reliable jobs. #PrimeDayStrike #HearOurVoice pic.twitter.com/HBaUj2E9n2
— CTUL (@CTUL_TC) July 15, 2019
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.
We’re marching right now to @JeffBezos house on #PrimeDay to demand Amazon cut ties with ICE!#NoTechForICE #CancelTheContract #AmazonVSImmigrants #ForUsNotAmazon #AbolishICE #ShutDownICE #NeverAgainIsNow #NeverAgain @LaColectiVA703 @dcmuslimjustice pic.twitter.com/IwpOTYIJjD
— (((Chase Carter))) (@chasemcarter) July 16, 2019