Amazon’s Clashes With Labor: Days of Conflict and Control

In the past few weeks, there has been a heated discussion on Twitter about whether Amazon employees have to urinate in bottles because they don’t have time to go to the bathroom – a level of control few modern companies would dare to practice.

“Amazon is reorganizing the nature of retail work – something that is traditionally physically undemanding and has a large amount of downtime – into something that resembles a factory that never wears off,” said Spencer Cox, a former Amazon employee who writes his Ph .D. Thesis at the University of Minnesota on how the company is transforming work. “For Amazon, it’s not about money. This is about controlling the workers’ bodies and every possible moment of their time. “

Amazon had no comment on this story.

Signs that Amazon is putting more pressure on its control are mounting. In February, Lovenia Scott, a former warehouse worker for the Vacaville, Calif., Company accused Amazon in a lawsuit of “doing such an immense amount of work” that she and her colleagues were given no breaks. Ms. Scott is seeking class action status.

Last month, the California labor officer said 718 delivery drivers who worked for Green Messengers, a Southern California contractor for Amazon, owed $ 5 million in wages that never made it to their wallets. Drivers were paid for 10-hour days, the labor commissioner said, but the volume of parcels was so large that they often had to work 11 or more hours and through breaks.

Amazon said it no longer works with Green Messengers and would appeal the decision. Green messengers could not be reached for comment.

An Amazon warehouse in the Canadian province of Ontario showed a rapid spread of Covid-19 in March. “Our investigation found that a shutdown was needed to break the chain of transmission,” said Dr. Lawrence Loh, the regional medical officer. “We gave Amazon our recommendation.” The company, he said, “didn’t answer.” Health officials ordered workers to self-isolate and close the facility for two weeks.

And five US senators wrote a letter to the company last month asking for more information on why it fitted its vans with surveillance cameras that constantly monitor the driver. The technology, the senators said, “raises important questions about privacy and worker surveillance that Amazon needs to answer.”

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