In what should surprise no one, Amazon is forcing its workers to work in potentially deadly conditions in its Massachusetts warehouses, with little protection against COVID-19.
One complaint said the company had not disinfected work areas after an employee tested positive for the virus. Another alleged employees were showing up to work with symptoms because they did not have enough sick time. Also, masks allegedly were not provided until weeks after they were promised, and hand-washing and glove changes were limited, the complaint alleged.Boston Globe, “Amazon facing scrutiny in Mass. after employees file complaints about working conditions”, May 17, 2020
Amazon is a notoriously predatory company that abuses the bodies of its fulfullment workers. (“Fulfillment”, there’s a word.) And yet, it has enjoyed the cheerful support of most of our political leaders, on a bipartisan basis. Amazon’s awful safety record is an black mark on the records of people I greatly admire otherwise.
This one hits everyone: Ed Markey. Joe Kennedy III. Charlie Baker. Elizabeth Warren. When Amazon was establishing a footprint in Massachusetts, they all should have known to be extremely vigilant about the Dickensian, exploitative workplace standards in Amazon fulfillment warehouses, which have been public knowledge for years. They should have known that giving cover to this company, by attending the ribbon-cuttings, was a long-term political risk.
But here they were in 2017 at the opening of the facility in Fall River — a community desperate for jobs, therefore ripe for exploitation. (The photos only show Markey, Warren, and Baker; but Joe Kennedy III was there too, having advocated for the facility as Fall River’s Congressman.)
And they all wrote letters in December 2019, when — predictably — there were high injury rates reported at the Fall River warehouse. Knowing Amazon’s bad record, were there not accountable promises for worker safety extracted before the ribbon-cutting? Did they fall apart as the Trump administration’s OSHA “abdicated” its responsibility to protect workers?
“Regulations are written in blood,” so it is said. The Trump administration is failing working people every day, at the cost of human lives — because it rewards people who only care about money. But our leaders should have seen this coming. For better or worse, ribbon-cutting photo-ops live forever.