by Nate Jackson
Amazon HQ in South Lake Union is an homage to the company’s success—success made in part by taking unfair advantage of their warehouse workers.
Two former Amazon warehouse workers from the infamous Allentown “sweatshop” warehouse came to Seattle to talk directly to the executives in Amazon about the horrible working conditions the workers face.
“I really wanted to work hard and do my work,” she said. “But when the heat kept going up, they didn’t do anything about it. It got over 100 degrees inside and instead of installing air conditioning they just had paramedics sit out there in the parking lot.”
Karen was one of many workers who were pushed to the point of exhaustion by the workloads and lack of proper safety concerns.
“This campus here is so pretty,” she said pointing out the new tall buildings. “I wonder how hot it is in there. Hey Jeff! How hot is it in your office?”
The crowd took up the chant yelling out “How hot is it?” up at the reflective glass of the newly constructed towers.
Amazon employees looked out from their offices and stopped as they came back from their lunch breaks. Many of them stayed for the entire event listening to their fellow employees who work for the same company, but are treated as second class employees.
Jim Herbold, a retired warehouse worker spoke to the crowd. He squinted in the sunlight and took the microphone.
“Ya know, I’ve always worked hard,” he started. “I take pride in my work, but these guys, they expect you to work till you drop. They treated us like we were just dispensable, worthless. They think they can just go and get another worker if this one falls down or passes out.”
He went on to explain that the warehouse in Allentown was always hiring and firing people.
“No one worked there longer than 6 months, I swear,” he said. “It was just in and out. They thought people in these tough times would just keep lining up for these bad jobs, but they’re wrong. People are starting to wise up. There’s no reason these jobs couldn’t be good jobs.”
Workers from local Teamsters 117 came out in support of the warehouse workers and the president, John Scearcy took to the stage to offer a few words.
“Working people have always known we were going to have to work hard,” he said. “We accept that. We just want our hard work to be rewarded, not with millions of dollars and crazy perks, just living wages, quality healthcare and the chance to take care of our families.”
The warehouse workers were interviewed by local media while the rest of us wrote our messages to Amazon in chalk on the privately owned public space in the middle of the campus.
One community member wrote “If you can ship me a book in one day you can treat your employees decently.”
Another asked the company to rethink its tax dodging ways.
One community member had an even simpler message: Shame.
Update: This week we will be having mini actions around Amazon leading up to the May 24th shareholder meeting. Keep your eyes open for corporate tax dodgeball, public outreach and a special surprise having something to do with the Hammering Man at the Seattle Art Museum.