WASHINGTON, June 20 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), sent a letter today to Amazon Chief Executive Officer Andy Jassy initiating a HELP Committee investigation into the abysmal safety record in Amazon’s warehouses and the company’s treatment of workers who are injured in those warehouses. Sanders also published a website where Amazon workers can submit stories about their experiences at the company to help inform the Committee’s investigation.
In the letter, Sanders wrote, “The company’s quest for profits at all costs has led to unsafe physical environments, intense pressure to work at unsustainable rates, and inadequate medical attention for tens of thousands of Amazon workers every year.”
“Amazon is one of the most valuable companies in the world worth $1.3 trillion and its founder, Jeff Bezos, is one of the richest men in the world worth nearly $150 billion,” Sanders wrote. “Amazon should be one of the safest places in America to work, not one of the most dangerous. If Amazon can afford to spend $6 billion on stock buybacks last year, it can afford to make sure that its warehouses are safe places to work. If Amazon can afford to pay you $289 million in total compensation over the past two years, it can afford to treat all of its workers with dignity and respect, not contempt. The time has come for Amazon to stop willfully violating workplace safety laws with impunity and commit to changing its operations to protect the health and safety of its workers.”
Sanders emphasized that the immense wealth amassed by the company and its executives is directly tied to the decisions to force workers into these unsafe environments, writing, “In its endless pursuit of profits, Amazon sacrifices workers’ bodies under the constant pressure of a surveillance system that enforces impossible rates. When faced with worker injuries, Amazon provides minimal medical care… This system forces workers to endure immeasurable long-term pain and disabilities while Amazon makes incredible profits from their labor.” Those decisions also contribute to the company’s turnover rate, which has regularly been as high as 150 percent per year.
Congress cannot allow this to continue. Sanders is demanding that Amazon provide information about the high injury and turnover rates at Amazon’s warehouses, the connection between the extremely fast pace of work demanded of Amazon’s workers and these injury rates, and the inadequate medical care provided at Amazon’s on-site medical clinics.
Amazon’s warehouses remain uniquely unsafe even as regulators have repeatedly cited the company for violations of federal workplace safety laws. The company’s employees suffered more serious injuries than all of the other warehouse workers in the country combined in 2022, despite Amazon only employing approximately a third of the country’s warehouse workers. Amazon’s serious injury rate is double the warehousing industry’s average. The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state regulators have provided Amazon with measures it could adopt to comply with workplace safety laws and make its warehouses safer. Amazon has chosen to disregard the vast majority of those recommendations.
When Amazon workers are inevitably injured, the letter notes, the company has a documented history of failing to provide adequate medical care. Instead, significant reporting indicates that the company’s on-site medical clinics under-treat and underreport injuries in an effort to push workers back onto the warehouse floor as quickly as possible and downplay the number of serious injuries employees suffer.
Sanders is also asking Amazon workers to submit stories about their time at the company through a webpage available HERE. The submissions are confidential and will help the HELP Committee investigate how the company fails to protect workers and evades responsibility for their necessary medical care.
Read the full letter, here.